No hard feelings.
A return of hard hits.
Those were the unanimous views and expectations of the Seahawks after thumping, three-time Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor ended his 54-day holdout Wednesday and reported four days before Sunday’s home opener against Chicago.
“Kam!” his teammates yelled as he took the field here at team headquarters in Renton, smiling and looking remarkably fit. After practice, defensive end Cassius Marsh and other Seahawks walked off with Chancellor joking with him and putting their arms around him while sharing smiles.
Coach Pete Carroll said Chancellor weighed in at 226 pounds – six pounds below the team’s official listing for him -- with six percent body fat.
He looked like he could play Wednesday night.
And 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. Seattle time Saturday for him to be able to play this Sunday.
Chancellor and his teammates all said he’ll start against Chicago.
“I KNOW I can play Sunday,” Chancellor said.
He didn’t smile.
Carroll said he and the team are assuming Chancellor will start Sunday but that they are monitoring how these next practices go.
His teammates portrayed a mix of excitement and relief that Chancellor’s was back.
“It sure is nice to see you out here,” teammate Doug Baldwin told Chancellor as they walked onto the practice field for afternoon drills.
“Everybody welcomed me with open arms,” Chancellor said. “It was like I was never gone, like I never missed a beat, like we never missed a beat with each other. It felt good just coming back and being around the guys and actually going through walkthrough. Going over the plays and making the calls just felt good."
No ill will. Just a sense of renewal, a feeling the Seahawks’ season -- off to a frustrating, 0-2 start -- is starting over with 14 games still remaining in the long regular season.
“He's received really well by his teammates, which is really important, and the staff,” Carroll said. “He got around and saw every coach.”
As for the business end of this: The Seahawks did not change their stance they’ve had since Chancellor began his holdout July 31 on the first day of training camp, that they would not add money onto his contract that has two years remaining on it beyond the $4.55 million he is scheduled to earn for the 2015 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.
So Chancellor reported Wednesday morning, after a long day of talking to teammates and retired Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion linebacker Ray Lewis then what he said was “all night” of praying on the issue Tuesday in Los Angeles.
What the Seahawks can’t take back or discuss is the $535,294 Chancellor forfeited in two games checks. Those are not team fines. That is the cost per the NFL CBA of a player refusing to report for regular-season games.
The Seahawks could fine Chancellor $250,000 – 25 percent of his 2015 proration on the $5 million signing bonus he got on the five-year, $28 million contract extension he signed before the 2013 season -- for missing the first game. The team could also fine him a maximum of $30,000 per day for 38 days of their preseason, or another $1.14 million.
Upon his arrival at team headquarters Chancellor declared he was pushing off those “business” matters until after this season.
Watching what he calls his “brothers” lose at St. Louis and Green Bay to begin the season – and that sting of more than a quarter-million dollars lost per game –got Chancellor to return to the middle of the Seahawks’ defense for week three.
“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 before practice. “You know, they were highly missed. It was hard to watch those games.”
“I think it was that time,” he said. “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.”
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner said there was a “buzz in the building” once Chancellor arrived. Carroll tweeted a music video of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Old Thing Back” to celebrate Chancellor’s return.
Asked how difficult it was to keep his “business” stance from becoming personal and emotional over the last two months, 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.”
So, no, no animosity. Exactly the opposite, by all accounts.
While Chancellor’s absence wasn’t the reason Seattle lost its first two games for the first time since 2011, his return greatly reduces the chances of another two-game losing streak anytime soon. Teams 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 2014 practice-squad rookie Dion Bailey then usual special-teams player and cornerback DeShawn Shead at strong safety instead.
“There's nobody like him. There's nobody who plays like him,” Carroll said. “He's extremely unique football player and his style and his mentality and all that, it can't be more. He's about as obvious as you can get.
“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.”
“We look forward to a really long time together, working well into the future. That’s what we’ve always thought of it, and that’s what we plan to do.”