RENTON Byron Maxwell was back.
So were his sleeves he’s under his Seahawks uniform.
“Of course,” he said. “It’s the only way to go.”
His swaying to coach Pete Carroll’s constant music bumpin’ throughout Tuesday’s practice? His old Seattle No. 41? Those were also back.
Did his game return, too?
“I’m a lot more savvier. I’ve seen a lot more football. Just more experienced,” the 29-year-old cornerback said after his first work on the field with Seattle since Super Bowl 49 almost three years ago.
“I’d like to think I am still in my prime.”
Everyone, including the Seahawks, may soon find out.
The team made official earlier in the day what became known on Monday: Seattle signed Maxwell to a free-agent contract for the remainder of this season. His first practice with his new-old team Tuesday came three weeks to the day after the Miami Dolphins released him.
“Early indications that he is really ready,” Carroll said. “I think sitting out for a couple weeks helped him a little bit, kind of get his mind straight and he is really anxious to get back. And he’s grateful to be coming back here.”
Maxwell takes the roster spot of Richard Sherman. The three-time All-Pro cornerback went on injured reserve on the eve of having surgery to repair the ruptured Achilles tendon in his right foot.
Maxwell was watching the Seahawks’ game last Thursday night at Arizona in which Sherman got hurt. But when the injury happened in the third quarter, Maxwell had dozed off. When he awoke to the news Sherman was out of the season, he wanted the Seahawks to call.
“I was hoping, at least, that they would call,” Maxwell said. “I know the system. I know the coaches.”
Carroll said following Tuesday’s light, indoor workout Jeremy Lane is the first option to start at Sherman’s left-cornerback spot on Monday when the Seahawks host Atlanta.
Yes, the veteran Seattle traded a couple weeks ago to Houston, only to have the Texans send Lane back because they failed him on a physical examination, is first in line to start against the defending NFC champions on Monday night.
Left unsaid but understood: Maxwell will also be preparing at left cornerback. It’s the opposite side of where he started at cornerback for Seattle in the 2013 and ‘14 season, including two Super Bowls. But the Seahawks didn’t call him and he didn’t sign a deal prorating the veteran minimum for the final seven games of this regular season to stand on the sidelines as “depth.” The team already has Neiko Thorpe for that.
Maxwell is fresh. He’s only played in 15 of a possible 25 games over the last two NFL seasons.
“It’s right in these years that I should be getting the best out of my body,” he said. “So I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Miami had traded for Maxwell from Philadelphia before the 2016 season then kept him for only 15 starts over 1 1/2 seasons. The Dolphins paid him $17 million for his time there, including the $8.5 million guaranteed for this season they ate when they cut him Oct. 24.
The Eagles signed Maxwell a month after he played in that Super Bowl for Seattle against New England in February 2015, to a six-year contract that could have been worth $63 million. It was his big windfall after having made a name and winning a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks.
He only saw $13.5 million of that deal paid by Philadelphia. The Eagles let him go even more quickly than the Dolphins did, after just one season.
So, yes, it has never been as great for Maxwell--on the field, that is--than it was for him with the Seahawks.
“That’s in the past, man,” Maxwell said. “I focus on being here, in Seattle.”
Carroll said Maxwell looked all grown up in his return, like a son who comes home after a few years away. Indeed, he’s no longer in his mid-20s, the former sixth-round pick in 2011--one round after Seattle took Sherman that year--the team raised in its own system. He’s pushing 30 now. His beard is bushier. His resolve is presumably more tested, judging by the money and the criticism and the two teams discarding him as a failure in the last three years.
Carroll said he is eager to see how Maxwell performs. Whether he is the same player, better, or worse than when he last played here.
Aren’t we all?
The answer to that is likely to determine how season-altering Sherman’s injury ends up being for the Seahawks.
“We will see how he does and how he fits in and all of that. He will have to compete his way through it, but it’s great to get a guy back that does have kind of the heritage and the background of the way we coach and techniques and principles and stuff like that,” Carroll said. “I’m anxious to see how he does.
“My first impression is he’s grown and matured. I don’t know how many years it’s been, like you look at your kid come back and they look like they grew a little bit taller. That’s what it looks like to me. It was really fun to visit with him, talk about what he has been through and what’s taken place and about his hopes now and all that and I gave him the real lengthy thought of where and how it could fit together and all of that. So we will see what happens. He is ready to go compete. He is excited to be here.”
Maxwell said it never entered his mind when he left almost three years ago that his career would need a kick start--especially not in the place it began.
“No, you have no idea,” he said. “Obviously, I love the place. I love the guys, everyone in this locker room...
“When you got to a new situation you thinking it is going to go well, hopefully go well. That was my outlook on it.”
He takes no joy out of getting a fourth chance in his NFL career at the expense of Sherman.
“I mean, coming back here I want Sherm to be here. He’s an awesome teammate and a great person,” Maxwell said. “You are definitely going to lose something. You talk about fiery a competitor that he is. He just brings it, every day. You know what you are going to get out of him.
“You are going to miss a lot. But that’s why you draft guys and you do some things. Everybody’s got to step up.
“Somebody’s got to step up.”