Jon Ryan just said goodbye to Seattle the same way he said hello, the same way he punted, played and represented the Seahawks for the last decade.
With absolute, all class.
The longest-tenured Seahawks player—he became their punter when Mike Holmgren was still Seattle’s coach, in 2008—wrote online Monday he’d been released.
“I will always be a Seahawk,” Ryan wrote.
A league source confirmed Ryan asked for his release after the team returned home at about 3 a.m. Sunday from its second preseason game at the Los Angeles Chargers. The Seahawks granted that request.
It became apparent through training camp and two preseason games this month impressive rookie draft choice Michael Dickson would win Ryan’s job with the Seahawks. Knowing the competitor he is, Ryan asked for his release so he can seek another NFL punting position now, with two weeks left before teams must set 53-man regular-season rosters—and then punt his rear end off against Seattle this season.
And wouldn’t you know it? Tuesday morning, not even 24 hours after his release from Seattle, Ryan was on the way to Buffalo to sign with the Bills, according to NFL Network.
The Seahawks made the Ryan move official Monday afternoon, and while doing so called the best punter they’ve ever had, the multi-year team co-captain, “a franchise icon.”
How many punters make their teams feel that way?
The Seahawks also released former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers and signed back cornerback Elijah Battle and wide receiver Marvin Bracey, whom they’d released last week.
That means 40-year-old Sebastian Janikowski wins the placekicking job for 2018, as expected.
Ryan, 36 and a native of Saskatchewan, stayed as real as his Canadian-prairie roots while thanking the city, the franchise from owner Paul Allen through his head coaches Holmgren, Jim Mora and Pete Carroll, “and the entire support staff at 12 Seahawks Way.”
“But more than anything I want to thank the 12’s,” Ryan wrote and posted to his Twitter account Monday morning. “You embraced a pale skinned, red headed Canadian with a speech impediment and made him feel like a super star. I will forever me grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you Seattle.”
Ryan is no ordinary punter. Or person.
He joined the Seahawks in 2008, after two seasons with the Green Bay Packers and two with the Winnipeg Blue Blue Bombers of his native Canadian Football League. He is sixth in the NFL among active players in punting yards, has been in the top five in the league in gross punting average five different seasons. He’s made 914 punts in his NFL career. He’s had just seven blocked. That’s the fewest among all active punters in the league with any kind of career longevity.
Carroll loved how often Ryan pinned opponents deep inside their own 20-yard line with his punts. That was part of the defense-and-field-position formula Seattle used to win Super Bowl 48 and play in Super Bowl 49.
Ryan had a direct hand, and arm, in getting to Super Bowl 49.
His legacy in Seattle will always include his touchdown pass to backup tackle Garry Gilliam while Ryan was holding for Steven Hauschka in field goal formation in the January 2015 NFC championship game.
Ryan rolled out to his left and plopped a pass into the wide-open Gilliam in the end zone. It was 16-0 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter and the Seahawks flat-lined out of the Super Bowl chase when Ryan made his famous play. CenturyLink Field rocked. The stunned Packers stopped. And the Seahawks rallied to win in overtime to go to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Immediately after Gilliam caught his pass, Ryan turned to the Packers’ sideline and playfully gave the “discount double check” move Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was famous for doing, from his insurance commercials.
The following January, Ryan took off running on a low punt snap on a minus-20-degree day in Minnesota during a wild-card playoff game. He got upended short of the line to gain and landed on his face. He broke his nose on that stunt. Of course he finished the game. Punted the next week in the divisional playoffs at Carolina, too.
But it’s his genuine personality that endears him most to fans and the Pacific Northwest.
Ryan never hid his desire for having a good time, drinking beers and joking at life.
He said, on camera, upon entering the NFL with the Packers that he sought to be “an NFL MVP candidate.” In the offseason of 2015 the “Ginja Ninja” competed in NBC television’s “American Ninja Warrior” competition. He did crossfit-style planks to work his abdominal muscles on side fields during practices.
The punter is owner of the Portland Pickles, a summer-league baseball team for college players home from school.
Ryan has always loved baseball; he played the sport growing up in Canada before giving it up to play lacrosse. When Ryan found out while they were dating that comedian Sarah Colonna loved baseball, too, it helped seal their relationship. They married in 2016.
Ryan proudly told the Los Angeles Times in an August 2017 profile of him running the Pickles that his team offers 16 microbrews on tap at its stadium.
He’s held a “Tackle Jon Ryan Night” at a game. Kids attending the game massed in the outfield to see if they could tackle Ryan. And they did.
Did the Seahawks appreciate one of their players getting mobbed and tackled by the public?
“They weren’t told about it,” a grinning Ryan said to the L.A. Times.
How Ryan handled the last four months since the Seahawks not only drafted but traded up to get Dickson, a punting phenom from Australia and the University of Texas, makes him special in the NFL. In sports, really.
It was obvious since the day they drafted Dickson that the rookie was going to take Ryan’s job this season. Plus, the Seahawks knew they could save $2.6 million against their salary cap for this year cutting Ryan. Dickson’s salary is $480,000.
Yet Ryan mentored Dickson throughout spring workouts and training camp. He taught him about punting and living and working in the NFL.
It was a weird dynamic for Ryan to be Dickson’s mentor while Dickson was essentially taking his job, no?
“It can be,” Ryan told me last week, “if you let it be.
“It’s obviously a unique situation. Obviously, only one punter is going to make the team. It’s not like receiver or any other position, you know. You can draft a wide receiver, and Doug Baldwin’s not going anywhere.
“So it’s interesting like that, a little bit different. But at the same time, we make it work.”
He made it work. He reached out to help Dickson with every nuance of punting in the NFL, and with holding for placekicks.
“It’s just who I am. I’m not going to be stand-offish towards him or have any ill will towards him,” Ryan said. “He’s out here working his butt off just like I am, trying to win this job. So he’s in the exact same place that I am.”
Carroll said last week he wasn’t surprised at how Ryan handled it.
“He has taken to the competition by showing what a classy guy he is. He’s helping Mike wherever he can,” Carroll said. “He talks situations with him. He works to support him. His holding, all of that stuff—Mike didn’t have a lot of experience with that—he’s been a consummate pro.”
Dickson told me he sees Ryan as “a punting legend.”
Monday, Dickson posted this, with the picture by The News Tribune’s Joshua Bessex of the rookie and Ryan at the Seahawks’ preseason opener two weeks ago:
How Ryan treated Dickson and handled his situation with the Seahawks over the last four months, through its end on Monday? It’s the classiest thing I’ve seen from a player in 20 years of covering professional and college sports.
But that’s Jon Ryan.
There’s a Ryan story I always wanted to ask him about but never did.
I was with my family on a spring-break trip to Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. We were riding a gondola to the top of Sunshine Village ski resort for a day on its slopes. We chatted up a man named Marc Antoine-Lamouthe, who looked to be maybe in his early-to-mid 30s. He told us he was a teacher, then asked where I was from, what I did for a living.
When I told him I covered the Seahawks Antoine-Lamouthe exclaimed: “Oh! You know Jon Ryan!”
He said he had been Ryan’s roommate for football road games at the University of Regina, where Ryan played for his hometown school. Antoine-Lamouthe said Ryan told him if he ever made it to the NFL he’d buy him a Slurpee machine, like the ones at 7-Eleven.
He spent the rest of the maybe 10-minute gondola ride gushing about what a great athlete Ryan is, how he played baseball and lacrosse in addition to football, and how he could run and catch passes beyond just punting in college. How went on even more about what a great dude Ryan is.
As the gondola pulled into the peak station, Antoine-Lamouthe said: “You tell Jon he owes me a Slurpee machine!”
Then he roared, smiled and said: “He’s the best dude I ever met.”
Monday night, half a day after his football world as he’s known it ended, Ryan told me that, yes, Antoine-Lamouthe’s story is true. That he is from Quebec. And that he indeed owes his college buddy a Slurpee machine.
Of course Ryan told me that.
“Now I that you brought it up I need to make good on it,” Ryan said.
“Searching amazon now.”