Kam Chancellor spent nearly two months dug in on a principle. His conviction was he deserved more money for all the sacrifice and performance he’d given the Seattle Seahawks in five seasons as the team’s soul.
So why did he suddenly drop that seemingly intractable stance two games into the regular season, without the team agreeing to any pay him any more cash than his $4.55 million salary for 2015? Why did he show up unannounced in Seattle on Tuesday night to finally report Wednesday morning, four days before the home opener against Chicago?
“I think it was that time,” the three-time Pro Bowl strong safety said Wednesday inside a team headquarters jolted and jazzed by his much-needed arrival. “Talked to a few guys, got some great words from people. I just thought the time was now.
“I’ve always been a guy who’s followed my heart. Just watching my teammates and my team play week to week, first and second game, watching those losses, you know, it hurt, just being the leader that I am.
“So I think the time is now to come back and put all business to the side, and address it after the season.”
Did he get assurances from the Seahawks they would take care of his financial wishes following the season if he was to return?
“That’s something we’ll discuss,” was all he would say on that.
The Seahawks (0-2) did not change their stance they’ve had since the 27-year-old Chancellor began his holdout July 31, that they would not add money onto his contract that has two years remaining on it beyond this season. What the team did entertain with Chancellor and his agent Alvin Keels is possibly reducing some of the $1.39 million in maximum fines the Seahawks could levy against him per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
But first, the team told Chancellor, he had to report before it would talk about the fines.
Chancellor said “it was a thought” to hold out the entire season. But, he said, “My teammates, the organization meant more to me.”
So he reported, after talking to teammates and retired Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion linebacker Ray Lewis, and then what Chancellor said was “all night” of praying Tuesday in Los Angeles. He boarded a private plane there and didn’t tell anyone he was coming in to Seattle until he was already here.
What the Seahawks can’t rescind is the $535,294 Chancellor forfeited in two games checks. Those are not team fines. That is CBA-stipulated cost of a player refusing to report for regular-season games.
The Seahawks could fine Chancellor $250,000 for missing the first game, 25 percent of the 2015 proration on the $5 million signing bonus he got on the five-year, $28 million contract extension he signed before the 2013 season. The team could also fine him a maximum of $30,000 per day for 38 days of its preseason, another $1.14 million.
Again, that’s “business” about which neither Chancellor nor coach Pete Carroll would talk.
“Shoot, I’m just happy to be back. Happy to be back playing football. Happy to be back with the organization, with my team, with my teammates, my coaches,” Chancellor said. “You know, they were highly missed. It was hard to watch those games.”
Asked how difficult it was to keep his “business” from becoming personal and emotional over the past two months while he essentially got stonewalled by Seahawks general manager John Schneider, Chancellor said: “We’re all human, and things happen. But business is business. You have to know how to distinguish the two and put one to the side and move forward.”
And what does he think he accomplished as the league’s only holdout into this regular season?
“Those things I would rather deal with at the end of the season,” he said. “Right now this is about coming back and playing football.”
Now the Seahawks can begin their season anew. Their swagger and their thumper is back.
“Kam!” his teammates yelled as he took the field for his first practice since the day before February’s Super Bowl, which he played with a torn medical collateral knee ligament
“It sure is nice to see you out here,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin told Chancellor as they walked onto the field for afternoon drills.
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said there was a “buzz in the building” over Chancellor’s arrival. And a beat. Carroll tweeted a music video of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Old Thing Back” Wednesday morning to celebrate the veteran’s return. That same tune was bumpin’ across the field as Chancellor joined his teammates for the start of practice.
Chancellor smiled at that welcome. And his grin looked as sharp as his fitness. He said he worked out with a personal trainer twice a day while away for all of training camp and the first two games.
Carroll said Chancellor weighed in at 226 pounds — six pounds below the team’s official listing for him — with 6 percent body fat.
He looked like he could play Wednesday night. Besides, there’s no way he ended his holdout after two months to sit out a third consecutive game, so expect No. 31 back in the middle of Seattle’s defense against the Bears.
The Seahawks have a two-week roster exemption for him. For Chancellor to make his season debut, the team will have to activate him by 24 hours before kickoff of that week’s game. So that’s by 1:25 p.m. Saturday for him to be able to play Sunday.
“I know I can play Sunday,” Chancellor said.
“We welcomed him with open arms, man,” Wagner said. “We’re excited. You get the player back that you wanted.
“Yes, there’s definitely a little buzz in the building.”
Defensive end Michael Bennett isn’t happy with his own deal that, like Chancellor’s, has three years remaining on it. Yet Bennett said he doesn’t resent Chancellor for being away while he practiced each day and played each game. He said all players understand pro football is “a business.”
Chancellor felt the love Wednesday.
“It was like I was never gone, like I never missed a beat, like we never missed a beat with each other,” he said.
So no ill will. Just a sense of renewal, a feeling the Seahawks’ season — off to the frustrating, 0-2 start, is restarting.
“It does feel like a start over,” Wagner said.
While Chancellor’s absence wasn’t the reason Seattle lost its initial two games for the first time since 2011, his return greatly reduces the chance of another two-game losing streak soon. Foes such as the Rams won’t be as bold in testing the middle of the defense with roaming receivers with Chancellor and his hammering hits back in there after two weeks of the Seahawks starting at strong safety Dion Bailey, the 2014 practice-squad rookie, then DeShawn Shead, the usual special-teams player and cornerback.
There is also the immeasurable affect Chancellor has as the most respected player in the locker room. For years teammates have come to him for advice on issues of X’s and O’s, technique, preparation, injuries, relationships, faith and more.
“There's nobody like him. There's nobody who plays like him. He's extremely unique football player,” Carroll said.
“This has been a long process getting here, but we’re really thrilled that he’s here. He’s a fantastic leader. He’s the blood and guts of our program, and has been forever.”
Then Carroll inferred how that “blood and guts” remains under contract through the 2017 season, at the same, non-guaranteed salaries of $5.1 million (2016) and $6.8 million (2017) that he was before his holdout began.
“We look forward to a really long time together, working well into the future,” Carroll said. “That’s what we’ve always thought of it. And that’s what we plan to do.”
SUNDAY: Chicago (0-2) at Seattle (0-2), 1:25 p.m., Ch. 7, 710-AM, 97.3-FM