This was as happy of a homecoming as DeShawn Shead could have drawn up. Ahead of Thursday night’s preseason opener, the Seattle Seahawks defensive back, who re-signed with his former team in July, looked like he’d never left.
When he was leaving the field after pregame warmups, he turned to the cheering fans in the south end zone at CenturyLink Field and blew them kisses.
Later on, when he sacked Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock in the end zone for a safety in the third quarter, Shead again turned to his adorers in the crowd, placed both hands on his face mask and pulled them away in gesturing another symbolic kiss.
His love affair with Seattle may have taken a brief detour to Detroit last season, but it never ended.
“Oh, man, it felt so good,” Shead said. “It felt so good to be back out there, be back with this team, be back at home, and just to go out there and show this team that I can still be the player I know I can be.”
Much has changed since Shead, who turned 30 in June, first signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State in 2012. The secondary he played alongside with in two Super Bowls — including Seattle’s rout of Denver in 2014 — has disbanded.
Richard Sherman, the All-Pro corner Shead started opposite of in 2016, now plays for a division rival. Earl Thomas is roaming the Ravens’ secondary. Kam Chancellor, more or less, retired for medical reasons. Shaquill Griffin was a rookie during the final season of Shead’s first stint with Seattle, and really the only recognizable name.
This year’s secondary includes a collection of young players with varying experience — which led the Seahawks to bring Shead back in the first place — nearly all less tenured than Shead, who is now beginning his eighth NFL season.
“This is a new team,” Shead said. “Definitely new faces in the secondary. But, they’re doing a great job out there. It was fun to be back here, and just to help show them some of the things I know.
“I learned from the best, playing with the best and playing at the highest level. And, I’m grateful to come out here and play with (the younger players), too. I’m happy to be a part of this.”
Shead acknowledged there was some question whether or not he could compete heading into this season. A knee injury during the playoffs in 2017 cost him most of the following season with Seattle, and he was eventually released, spending 2018 instead with Detroit.
He appeared in 12 games with the Lions, amassing 18 tackles and a forced fumble before he landed on the injured reserve in December.
But, Shead’s versatility — he can play corner or safety, and has played both positions for Seattle in the past — and reputation was enough to earn him a tryout with the Seahawks this summer.
He proved enough in that workout to earn a one-year deal, and enough during the early stretch of preseason camp to play significant snaps Thursday night, logging four tackles and the sack of Lock.
“There was a big thing about, ‘Am I healthy? Can I go again?’ I was grateful to go out there and showcase that I can be here to help this team,” Shead said.
Shead answered any questions about lingering health issues, or whether he still had the speed to compete when he came crashing through the line and dropped Lock for the 9-yard loss, putting two points on the board.
“Probably my favorite play of the night was DeShawn Shead making the sack in the end zone,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It was a great blitz, a great call at the right time, and we hit it right. (Ben) Burr-Kirven did a nice job of setting it up, and DeShawn just hit it perfectly, and it was a huge play.”
“Everything worked,” Shead said. “Everything had to work to put it together. We had a call put on. ... Everybody hit their right gaps and the hole opened up, and it was just me and the quarterback. I tried to get there as fast as I could.”
When Shead bounced up from the turf, the names on the jerseys of the teammates that were congratulating him may have been different, but he said the energy felt the same. Carroll was still jubilantly jumping up and down on the sideline, as he has so often the past decade, and the roaring crowd echoed in the background.
“That’s the Seahawk way I know,” Shead said. “Nobody’s worried about the score, and what’s going on. We’re just out there going hard. Having fun. Playing with enthusiasm. Playing with grit.”
He was quick to point out the eagerness his younger teammates showed, and the talent they showcased in ultimately pushing Seattle to a win. And, he couldn’t hold back his own excitement looking forward to what this secondary could be capable of.
“It gives us a lot of energy,” Shead said. “It’s preseason, but preseason is just as important as any other game. No. 1, people are battling to try to make this team. No. 2, it’s another game. Every game is a championship game.
“We prepare like that, and we come out here and play as if it’s a championship game because you’ve got to prepare for those moments when they come. That’s the way we treat it. Everybody went out there and was flying around. … It was a great team win today.”