Shaquill Griffin’s path to redemption in 2019?
Three months before the games get real, Richard Sherman’s replacement as the Seahawks’ starting left cornerback has already started on that path.
That path is lined with... chickens?
Griffin has lost 12 pounds since last season, his second in the NFL as Seattle’s starter. It was his debut moving from the right to the left side, after the team waived Sherman and the All-Pro signed with San Francisco.
“I’m about 194 right about now,” Griffin said Thursday with a proud, earned grin.
“I’m stronger than I was last year, being at this weight.”
He and his twin brother hired a chef this offseason. The chef comes in every other day to their shared home to drop off personalized meals. Shaquill’s has cut out most carbohydrates. He is focusing on lean proteins such as baked chicken and “any type of seafood.”
“I’ve cut down on the portions of the food I do eat,” he said. “I don’t just eat one huge meal. I try to get between four and six meals a day. ...
“A lot of it is baked chicken, I can tell you that. Wish it was one of my favorites.
“I feel like if I eat one more, I will turn into one at this point.”
Shaquem hasn’t been as fowl. Entering his second year as a Seahawks outside linebacker, he has been trying to gain weight after his rookie season in which he started the opener then was benched and overwhelmed. He’s had more dense meals delivered for him.
It’s been the opposite for his twin.
“Last year, I felt like I was just eating whatever I could,” Shaquill said. “You know, just being young, whatever came to mind is what I ate. Now, I am focusing more on what to put in my body that’s going to fuel me, that’s going to help me in the future.
“I wanted to become more trim. Leaner. Faster,” he said Thursday following the last of 10 organized team activities practices at Seahawks headquarters along Lake Washington.
He said he gave up barbeque wings, and it was a particularly painful sacrifice.
But he and Shaquem still afford themselves one “cheat meal” per week. It’s usually on a Friday or Saturday.
“And it’s so tough what I want to have on that cheat meal,” he said. “Actually, my brother and I are probably going to have a discussion right now, after this, on what we are going to eat this week.”
Other than that one paradise meal out of 35-40 per week, Shaquill is on a dietary mission to be faster and fresher on the field in 2019.
“I feel like it took so much out of me, because I was carrying so much weight,” he said. “The speed never really left me. But when you are 210, 212, running around, you start to get fatigued a lot faster.
“My main thing is I want to run longer, run faster, you know, better than anybody else on the field. I want to continue to play through the whole game, first through fourth (quarters), with as much energy at the start as the last play of the game. .... I can run a lot longer and a lot faster, and continue to compete at that highest level. That’s how I’ve been feeling through all OTAs.
“I’m feeling really good. And I’m feeling good—great—about the weight that I’m at now. So I’m just going to stick with it. It’s working.”
A lot better than last season.
Griffin says he put unnecessary pressure on himself in his second season to replicate Sherman in getting a certain number of interceptions and knocking down a number of passes.
“I feel like the pressure came from me,” he said. “The stats, that’s where the pressure came from. The pressure didn’t come from the teammates, or the players counting on me. It came from, ‘Oh, man, if I don’t end the season with 10 picks I’m terrible.’ That pressure came, I put on myself. ... just focusing on individual goals.
“That’s the mindset I had to change. ... I was into the accolades and the stats. I’ve got a different mindset. ...The maturity level has changed.”
That wrong mindset, plus the addition dozen or so pounds with which he played last season, contributed to Griffin being what he termed as merely “average” in 2018. He missed some assignments he didn’t miss in his rookie season of 2017, including getting beaten over the top on deep routes. It’s the No. 1 rule in coach Pete Carroll’s defense: stay on top, don’t get beaten deep.
He had two interceptions and eight passes defensed in 16 games last regular season. That’s about half the 15 passes he knocked down in his rookie season.
Average doesn’t cut it for Griffin. And with Seattle’s already iffy pass rush further weakened by this spring’s trade of top sack man Frank Clark to Kansas City, the Seahawks need above-average coverage from Griffin and opposite cornerback Tre Flowers in 2019.
“Being that No. 1 corner, I can’t have average years,” Griffin said.
“I’ve got to be more than average. Me being the No. 1 corner...I’ve got to be elite.”
To be that, he remains in constant contact with and getting mentored by one of the best cornerbacks of his time. Griffin said he and Sherman still talk regularly, as they did during last season when Sherman was debuting with the 49ers.
Griffin says he’s gone back to watch films of Sherman’s, Earl Thomas’ and Kam Chancellor’s Seahawks games in 2013, the season the team won the Super Bowl. Griffin’s been struck with how close that defense and team was. He wants to replicate that with these current Seahawks.
Griffin reveres Sherman, “like a brother,” Griffin says. When Griffin was a Seahawks rookie in 2017 Sherman spent extra time from spring through winter teaching the rookie how to play cornerback.
“Yeah. Actually I just texted with him today,” Griffin said. “Every now and then, we just check up on (each other). Keeping that relationship, you know, is always good. It’s more than just football. He’s family. I feel like he’s a brother to me. We are always going to keep that relationship.”
Nothing, though, will top the relationship Shaquill has with his twin brother. Though Shaquem had by their family’s meteroic standards a subpar rookie season with Seattle last year, getting benched from his start for injured KJ. Wright at weakside linebacker in the opener and spending the rest of the season on special teams, the 23-year-old Griffin twins are living a dream in the NFL.
They are roommates again. Since Seattle made Shaquem the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL in the spring of 2018 draft, they’ve been reunited. They’ve been living together in the Seattle suburbs, as they have for all but Shaquill’s rookie season with the Seahawks in 2017, when Shaquem was finishing at their University of Central Florida.
Shaquill says Shaquem handled his rocky rookie season well and didn’t sulk when he lost his playing time on defense. He just kept working.
Carroll has said the Seahawks want to use Shaquem this year more in the role he had while starring at UCF: speeding off the edge as a pass rusher and havoc-maker, freed from the burdens of reading blockers and formations and fitting running lanes as an standard linebacker.
So the twins both have something to prove this Seahawks year.
Not that they are daunted by any of that. They are having the time of their remarkable lives.
The most recent evidence of that came on Shaquill’s social-media account Thursday:
“It doesn’t stop here,” Shaquill said. “We’ve got so much more to do, so much more to accomplish. We all have to get better at that.
“But we are off to a great start.”