RENTON A year ago, it was not Michael Bennett but Jeremy Lane sitting during a national anthem before a Seahawks preseason game to protest treatment of minorities in this country.
Lane, Seattle’s veteran cornerback and nickel back, is quieter and far, FAR less outspoken than Bennett. When cameras and recorders and reporters swarmed him inside the small locker room at the Oakland Coliseum last August after he sat during the anthem before the Seahawks’ 2016 preseason finale at Oakland, he seemed almost overwhelmed with the attention. He said then, and on Tuesday, that all he wanted to do was support Colin Kaepernick in the now-former 49ers quarterback’s far more widely-known -- and controversial -- protest of kneeling during anthems that began weeks before Lane sat.
A year later, does Lane regret what he did for the only time that night in Oakland?
“I never really regret anything I do. I usually put a lot of thought into everything I do,” the native Texan said in a hallway outside the team locker room following Tuesday’s 13th practice of training camp. “My mama always told me, ‘Make sure you think about the things you do.’ I really took that to heart and make sure I think about the things I do.
“I don’t have any regrets about it. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t do it more -- but I don’t really want to talk about the situation.”
After Lane sat in Seattle’s preseason finale last year, the team met and decided to be more unified with an “expression of unity” before their next game, the regular season opener at home against Miami. The Seahawks voted to lock arms side by side across the length of their bench sideline during the anthem last September 11.
For some in the locker room, it was a compromise, less forceful than the wanted to show. Less jarring and, to some, offensive than what Lane did, and what Bennett is now doing.
“Really, my main goal was show support for Kaepernick, to let him know that ‘I’m behind you,’” Lane said Tuesday.
I asked him about Bennett sitting during the anthem last weekend just before Seattle’s began the 2017 preseason at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Lane, who didn’t play in the game, claimed that was news to him.
“He sat last game? I didn’t hear about it,” Lane said. “When I did it, it blew up. When Mike B. sat down, I didn’t hear anything about it.”
Bennett said Sunday night he will continue his protest, will continue to sit during anthems. Will Lane join Bennett Friday in not standing during the anthem before the Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings in the second exhibition game?
“We’ll see,” Lane said. “We’ll see.”
Lane stopped to talk to me after he returned to practice for the first time in more than a week, doing position drills. He sat out practices and Seattle’s 48-17 exhibition win over the Chargers last weekend with a groin injury.
“Yeah, better today. I think I actually could have played Sunday but just didn’t want to push it,” he said. “You know, just be smart about things.
“I just kind of tweaked my groin a little bit.”
Lane is in a competion with rookie third-round draft choice Shaquill Griffin for the starting right-cornerback job, while DeShawn Shead, last year’s starter there, remains out until at least October or longer following a torn knee ligament and surgery from January’s playoff loss at Atlanta. Griffin started last weekend, and was the first-time cornerback again Tuesday when Lane sat out team drills.
Coach Pete Carroll has praised the 27-year-old Lane this month for his work since a subpar season last year -- his first of a four-year, $23 million extension -- and for a new maturity.
“Jeremy Lane had a fantastic offseason,” Carroll said at the start of training camp two weeks ago. “He made a big shift in his mentality and his approach. He is so serious. He studied so much. He has applied himself in his conditioning work, his strength work, his focus on the field.
“He has been fantastic. You ask anyone in the program and they will tell you Jeremy Lane is on fire right now. I think he sees the opportunity and he wants to go for it and he wants to own it and we couldn’t ask for more. He is off to a great start and he looks fantastic.”
Lane said that’s because he’s comfortable, almost more comfortable outside at cornerback than inside a nickel. That’s even though he’s primarily been Seattle’s nickel back the last few years.
“I feel pretty comfortable at corner. Actually, I’ve played there more than people think,” he said. “My rookie year, actually started at corner a few games (three). Second year, I started at corner a few games there. Third year, that’s when I got hurt (he had a groin injury at the start of 2014, then broke his arm and tore knee ligaments on his return of an interception of Tom Brady early in that season’s Super Bowl 49).
“And then last year, I played mostly nickel.
“At corner, what’s different are the route concepts. Other than that, nothing major. Oh, the receivers, of course. Inside, they are more built to be quick and fast, more jerky routes. But outside, there are more tall guys. Deep ball routes.”
Lane said “it’s actually easier to me outside,” because there are fewer tricks to what receivers try to go against him. Outside receivers, he says, are more straight forward in their runs, with fewer cuts.
Inside, he said, “they give me hard times” with more starts and stops and zigs and zags.
“Outside, the game kind of slows down for me.”
Lane said the outside cornerback spot is an easier place to employ Carroll’s step-kick technique against receivers at the line.
“When I go in nickel, inside, I have to step with both feet (depending on which side of the field he’s on). Outside, on the right, it’s easier for me, because I just step with one foot.”
Lane had a positive assessment of Griffin’s NFL debut in his start last weekend against the Chargers. Lane missed the game resting his groin.
“I think Shaq played pretty solid. A couple rookie errors. But overall, pretty solid,” Lane said of one the star’s of training camp. “I like what I see out of him.”
He didn’t hold against Griffin Antonio Gates’ touchdown catch from Philip Rivers in front of Griffin to end Los Angeles’ first drive. The rookie didn’t react strongly or quickly on the big, superstar tight end’s in route.
“Exactly. Antonio Gates, he’s going to be putting on a gold jacket (for Hall of Fame induction) someday, for sure,” Lane said, laughing.
Even if Lane ends up winning the right-cornerback job in base defense, he may play less than there inside this season. The Seahawks have played nickel defese with five cover backs about two-thirds of the time the last couple season. That means expect Lane at nickel and Griffin outside at right corner on the majority of plays in 2017 -- starting Sept. 10 against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
However it shakes out, Lane says he’s willing to help the rookie.
“He’s a young guy. I know we are competing for a job. I have nothing against him,” Lane said. “You know, we’re not the best of friends, but we’re cool.”
“I mean, it’s always competing around here. That’s all I know. It’s normal to me. There’s no pressure competing, because every year I’m competing here. I like to compete, so it’s nothing new.”
OFFENSIVE LINE DU JOUR: Thirteenth practice of camp, seems like the 13th time in a row the starting line changed from one day to the next.
Tuesday’s had George Fant at left tackle, Luke Joeckel at left guard and Justin Britt at center again. But Mark Glowinski was the right guard instead of Oday Aboushi. Germain Ifedi was the left guard, with rookie second-round pick Ethan Pocic behind him.
Pocic also got time at right guard with the second unit. That’s the first time the former LSU center has played guard in a team scrimmage.
EIGHT ALL-PRO SELECTIONS: That’s how many combined for these guys playing catch during practice: