Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ rookie Justin Britt’s huge role vs. Denver is only his second-most important job

Hours after the Seahawks returned from last week’s loss at San Diego, Justin Britt was walking into Tom Cable’s office.

Despite what Seattle’s offensive line coach said were many “cool things” Britt did against the Chargers, the rookie right tackle wasn’t satisfied with his second NFL game. So after the team returned from the airport to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center late Sunday night, after Britt got a few hours’ rest at the home he and his newlywed wife Alicia rent up Interstate 405 in Bellevue, he drove back to the VMAC. While many of his teammates grabbed some more of a postgame mental break, Britt asked Cable to break down film with him.

“He always is checking in,” Cable said. “It’s very important to him.”

There’s a tiny, almost 2-year-old reason for that.

It’s the same reason that while Britt’s task Sunday — repelling Denver sack aces DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller — is vital to the Seahawks’ chances of beating the Broncos again in this Super Bowl rematch, it’s not as important to Britt as this:

At a crossroads of his football life, at the age of 21 and two weeks after reconstructive knee surgery cut short his junior season at Missouri in November 2012, then-fiancée Alicia Bratten bore him their daughter Navy Noelle.

“It definitely helped make the surgery and the rehab a lot better, having her there and having to have that responsibility,” Britt said of baby Navy. “Just living life for someone else besides yourself.”

His daughter’s birth renewed and even intensified Britt’s focus on making it to the NFL.

His dream became a promise, a vow to baby Navy Noelle.

“Definitely,” he said.

“But I just controlled what I could control.”

The newly driven new dad returned from the knee reconstruction for his senior season at Missouri and controlled just about every defender that came his way. That included Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. Britt’s work that night on national television against the eventual No. 1 choice of Houston in May’s draft skyrocketed his draft stock from a possible late-round pick.

This past January 31, while working out at the personalized performance training center Athletes’ Performance Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida, Britt married Alicia. It was a small, private ceremony; the wedding party consisted of the brunette bride, her 6-foot-6, 325-pound groom and Britt’s Missouri teammate L’Damian Washington. Washington is now a practice-squad wide receiver for the New York Giants whose own remarkable story includes his father being killed when Washington was 5 and his mother dying from a blood clot when he was 15. 

Three-plus months after Britt got married, the former late-round project until his vow of humility to his daughter became the Seahawks’ second-round draft choice. And he has indeed come through for Alicia and Navy. He won the starting right-tackle job for the Super Bowl champions last month, beating out nine-year veteran Eric Winston. Britt’s $3.55 million, four-year contract included a cash signing bonus of $834,132, with $1.41 million guaranteed.

“I’m just happy how it all played out,” the mostly understated native of Lebanon, Missouri, said. “But at the time I was just trying to be the best I could be.”

He needs to be at his best Sunday against Ware, Denver’s major free-agent upgrade to its pass rush this offseason, and the return of Miller, the rush linebacker who did not play in February’s Super Bowl because of injury.

“They have really great defensive ends. They are a greatly coached team, obviously one of the best. They are pretty seasoned,” Britt said.

“It’s a great opportunity and a great challenge to play a great team.”

In his NFL debut against Green Bay on Sept. 4, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell used tight ends, running backs and even wide receiver Jermaine Kearse coming out of pre-snap motion to help Britt with “chip” blocks on Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and the Packers’ pass rush.

Last week in San Diego, Britt and the rest of Seattle’s offensive line struggled against the Chargers’ attacking schemes, especially off the flanks. That’s why Britt was in Cable’s office Monday morning talking details such as proper hand and feet placement at the snap.

“First game it went pretty well,” Britt said. “Second game I had a few hiccups that were because of technique. But knowing the scheme and not letting it be too big, I think I’ve handled that. It’s just about working on technique.”

Cable wasn’t as hard in assessing Britt’s NFL start as Britt was of himself.

“Oh, I think he’s doing really well,” Cable said. “He continues to have experiences issues sometimes — ‘where my inside foot’s got to be, where my catch hand is.’ But you turn the film on and he did a lot of cool things again.

“He’s had some struggles. But he’s as been as much as you would hope for — and maybe more.”

Asked if he almost has to pinch himself over living not only his dream but the promise he made to his daughter, Britt shook his head side to side.

“I really am honored, but I worked really hard to be where I’m at,” he said. “I’m not going to take that for granted, but I am definitely humbled and honored that I have the opportunity that I do.”

As for what he likes most in being a dad, it’s the same feeling that has driven him from unable to walk on a reconstructed knee 21 months ago to the Seahawks’ starting right tackle as a rookie.

“It’s just having someone there who depends on you,” he said. “That’s a great feeling.”

EXTRA POINTS

Rush end Bruce Irvin did not practice for the second consecutive day since injuring a rib in Wednesday’s drills. The Seahawks list Irvin as questionable for Sunday’s game. Coach Pete Carroll said Irvin felt “a lot better” Friday but his availability will be a “game-time decision.” … The Seahawks list as probable: RB Marshawn Lynch (back), TE Zach Miller (ankle), S Kam Chancellor (ankle), LB Mike Morgan (hip), RB Christine Michael (hamstring), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis and TE Cooper Helfet.

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