Slogging through a rehabilitation program he felt was going nowhere early this spring, Bradley McDougald went to the Seahawks with a request. It’s one NFL players don’t often make to their teams.
Send me to knee surgery.
“Me and the (Seahawks’) training staff had come up with a plan. Unfortunately, the plan, it didn’t feel right, in my heart. And I kind of suggested it, about the operation,” Seattle’s key safety said Wednesday, after he again watched practice wearing a team bucket hat instead of a helmet on the middle day of the Seahawks’ three-day minicamp.
“The rehab time is quick. I feel like my body recovers quickly. That’s kind of the route we went.”
McDougald revealed Wednesday he played last season on a partially torn patellar tendon in his knee. He said he first felt the pain Oct. 28 while playing in Seattle’s win at Detroit.
He continued playing through the pain in the knee, all the way through the playoff loss at Dallas Jan. 5. He started every game taking the place of retired Kam Chancelllor at strong safety, but sometime taking series off while 2017 third-round pick Delano Hill replaced him at strong safety.
Since the Lions game I’d been having a lot of troubles, a lot of pain, a lot of grief. But after that (surgery) I feel like I’m in a much better situation now. I feel good. My body feels good. I’m just ready to compete.”
With the offseason rehab the Seahawks started not progressing, he decided on surgery a couple weeks before the team began organized team activities practices began May 20.
“I spent some time away, down in Houston. Been recovering, really, getting healthy,” he said.
“I feel ready to go. If I had to practice today, if I had to play today, I’d feel more than confident doing it...
“Right now, I probably feel the healthiest I’ve been in a while.”
He has been wearing a black sleeve over his right leg. He is catching a few punts from Michael Dickson, seemingly more to shake boredom during practice than anything. Otherwise he isn’t doing anything but watching practices while holding a play sheet for his defense.
He says that will change six weeks from now when the Seahawks report for training camp.
Asked if he will be on the field practicing at the start of camp, July 25, McDougald said: “Yeah. For sure.”
The Seahawks have decisions to make on which safety position McDougald will play for them in 2019. And it is predicated on rookie Marquise Blair.
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider traded one of their two first-round picks in this spring’s draft down into the second round, then used that gained choice to select Blair. They wanted him because of his hitting that was so hard as the strong safety for the University of Utah, Schneider called him “a silent assassin.”
Blair has missed the last two weeks of practices, the end of OTAs and this minicamp, because of a hamstring injury.
Carroll this week said the rookie missing these practices was “unfortunate.”
His comments hinted at how much the Seahawks want to see from Blair, to determine whether he may indeed win a starting job this preseason.
“It’s unfortunate, too. For the young guys, these practices are SO important to them,” Carroll said Tuesday, after being asked about Blair’s absences. “We miss the opportunity to learn them, and they miss the chance to pick up on stuff and gets reps and all that. So it’s unfortunate.”
If Blair proves ready to tackle NFL ball carriers and cover receivers right away this preseason, the Seahawks could move McDougald to free safety, where he has played well for them in pass coverage and open-field tackling before, including when now-gone Earl Thomas was hurt.
The team does not seem sold on Tedric Thompson, their fourth-round pick from 2017, as the long-term answer to replace Thomas at free safety, at least not yet. If there were, they wouldn’t have traded down and drafted Blair so highly this spring. Plus, McDougald has two years remaining on his contract. He turns 29 in November.
Hill has also been out of offseason practices following shoulder surgery. Shalom Luani, a backup and mainly special-teams player last season after his arrival from Oakland in a trade, has been the strong safety and Thompson the free safety with the starting defense in OTAs and the minicamp.
As he stated last year at this time when he was filling-in for Thomas during the All-Pro free safety’s holdout, McDougald repeated Wednesday he prefers to play strong safety. He feels he is better and more impacting at that tackling position closer to the line of scrimmage than at the more center-fielder’s role of deeper free safety.
“Honestly, I am fully prepared to come in and play strong safety,” he said. “I’m willing to compete and battle with whoever, but I can do both. But I prefer to play ‘in the box,’ closer to the line of scrimmage. There is just more for me to do there in the run game, and in man-to-man coverages. But I’m always willing to do whatever to make the team work, to be the best asset for the team.
“But I definitely intend to play ‘in the box.’”