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You’d think the NFL, the corporate and cultural behemoth of American sports, would have a set of rules governing the attributes of a franchise quarterback.

You’d think, 100 years into this thing, it would have a stone-scroll template that determines how it chooses the young men who become the most exalted and fetishized athletes in the game.

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You would be wrong — not that it doesn’t try. Oh god, how it tries. It has the combine and the pro days and the interviews and the individual workouts and the jumps and the leaps and the shuttles and the endless measuring and the computerized timing and whatever else it can think of to analyze a human being within a centimeter of his life. And yet, when it comes to what’s important and predictive as it pertains to a presumptive franchise quarterback, your guess is probably as good as theirs.

History shows us he can be slow. He can be weak. He can be dumb. He can be a bad teammate. He can even combine a few of those at once and still get drafted before the first bank of commercials. But as the NFL defined itself as America’s favorite pseudo-religion, and as the dumb and the weak and the slow cleared the underbrush for future generations of dumb and weak and slow, there remained just one thing a quarterback couldn’t be: short. Football’s merchants of speculation might argue about Wonderlic scores, hand sizes and the pitfalls of a country-club background, but they all view short the same way: quantifiable and damned obvious. Short can’t hide.

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Being tall excuses just about everything. If he’s 6-4 and dumb, they’ll call him football-smart. If he’s 6-4 and slow, they’ll tout his real or imagined ability to move in the pocket. If he’s 6-4 and weak, they’ll change his diet and point him toward the weight room. If he’s 6-4 and a bad teammate, they’ll surround him with veterans who can fix that right quick. Every flaw can be worked around or compensated for or beaten out, organizationally speaking. Except height.

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray measured 5-10 1/8 at the combine, and the number was reported as an achievement, maybe even a defining moment in the Heisman Trophy winner’s career. He is small, not just for a quarterback but for a high school point guard. And yet the Arizona Cardinals just might make him the first pick of the 2019 NFL draft.

How did this happen? Did the NFL’s thinking change? Or is Kyler Murray that rarest of humans — the kind who can change the NFL’s thinking?
“Here’s the one thing you need to know about Kyler,” says former NFL quarterback and coach Jim Zorn. “Short goes away when you see what he can do.” Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SPORTS
MURRAY IS MANY things other than short. He is wickedly fast, smart, strong and slightly mysterious. He throws the ball with both ease and a force that can be measured audibly. He possesses an undercover agent’s awareness of his immediate surroundings and a distant reserve that is easily — and inaccurately, according to those who know — taken for cold detachment.

Some of the stories seem to border on the apocryphal. He is so fast that his center at Oklahoma, Creed Humphrey, swears there were times he would block on a quarterback draw and “feel the wind coming off him when he’d go by.” At the risk of further hyperbole, Murray’s athletic ability might be generationally transcendent. By the end of April, he will be the only person ever drafted in the first round in both Major League Baseball (ninth, by Oakland, in 2018) and the NFL. The Athletics gave him a $4.7 million bonus and projected him to be their star center fielder of the future. They also gave him their blessing when he said he wanted to play one more year of football at Oklahoma, which he turned into 4,361 yards passing, 1,001 yards rushing and that Heisman. The Athletics’ generosity came with a cost; now he’s someone else’s quarterback of the future. (Unless, of course, they return with the offer of a major league contract that might be lucrative enough to change his mind one more time. Baker Mayfield got $32.7 million guaranteed as last year’s No. 1 pick — the A’s could double that if they choose.)

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The analytics that recommended Mayfield, another undersized Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma, serve Murray well. Murray’s 11.6 yards per pass attempt was the highest by an FBS quarterback since 2004. And despite his height, he had just four balls batted down or defended within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage last season. Daniel Jones, a 6-5 likely first-round pick from Duke, had 14. In addition, the NFL’s lean toward more spread-style offenses (the kind Kliff Kingsbury will employ with the Cardinals) has lessened the perceived risk of a short quarterback. Evaluators can point to Russell Wilson and Drew Brees as evidence that shorter quarterbacks can find passing lanes inside and outside the pocket, and they can fulfill themselves by comparing Murray to Wilson-despite vast differences in speed and style-because nobody has much of an imagination anymore.

“Kyler’s always had bigger people in front of him,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley says. “He’s always had to find creative arm angles, find different lanes, move in the pocket to create them. He’s had to deal with it forever. I’ve always said, ‘If you’re going to be short now, you’d rather be short the whole time.'”

It’s an interesting recommendation: Look, we know he’s short, but he’s always been short.

“Don’t look at his film from college or even high school,” says Tom Westerberg, Murray’s head coach at Allen High, north of Dallas. “Look at peewee football or middle school. He’s always been what he is now — a small quarterback. There was never a time when he was one of the bigger ones on the field. This is all he knows, and I think he’s going to challenge the NFL’s thinking and then blow it out of the water.”

Murray started for Riley at Oklahoma for just one year, and yet when Riley is asked if there’s one play that typifies Murray’s rare skills, he is silent for a full 13 seconds as he sorts them through his mind. Finally, he says it happened midway through last season, against Texas, when the Sooners’ offensive linemen so thoroughly botched a play that it’s a wonder they all made it out alive. The ball was snapped, and the right guard and right tackle pulled to the left while the left tackle pulled to the right. As they tried to dodge one another — there’s a split second where it seems plausible the right guard might ask the left tackle what he’s doing there — Murray acted as if this were the plan all along. He maneuvered past the pileup, sidestepped an unblocked defensive end, turned the corner and ran 67 yards for a touchdown.

“Here’s the one thing you need to know about Kyler,” says former NFL quarterback and coach Jim Zorn, who worked with Murray to prepare him for his pro day. “Short goes away when you see what he can do.”

THE MAKING OF a legend, in three parts:

I. Jeff Fleener was an assistant coach at Allen High — home of the $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium — when he first heard that Kevin Murray had started a business to train high school and college quarterbacks in the area.

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Another coach told him, “Kevin’s son can get it.”

That’s a good tip, right? Son of a former star quarterback is training in your area, be worth your time to check it out.

“Oh yeah? How old is he?” Fleener asked.

“He’s 9, but I’m telling you …”

Fleener cut him off. “OK, whatever. I mean — he’s 9.”

The guy shrugged and raised his eyebrows in a suit-yourself kind of way.

“I’m just telling you,” he said, “the kid can flat-out throw — and he can fly.”

“Yeah, but he’s 9,” Fleener said.

“Yeah,” the guy said, “but just you wait.”

II. When Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon was at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia, the last thing his quarterback did before he took the field on Friday night was take out his phone and watch a highlight video to get hyped for the game.

Sermon asked him what he was watching, and the quarterback just held the phone up and said, “Kid from Texas. Kyler Murray.”

The quarterback knew this Murray kid had never lost a high school game. Eventually, he would go on to win three straight state championships at Allen and enter the conversation about the best and most famous prep player in Texas history.

Back in that locker room in Marietta, Sermon watched the video to its end, and when that little kid was finished running past people and throwing over them, Sermon looked at his quarterback and said, “Wow. He’s something else.”

III. Lincoln Riley is sitting in a deep leather couch in his office when he’s asked to recall his first impressions of Murray. The office has the feel of a sacristy — ornate furnishings, ceilings tall enough to create echo-y acoustics, a Vatican-level shrine of the sponsor’s brand of sneakers on one wall. It’s an oligarch’s office presided over by a 35-year-old guy in a sweatsuit and a baseball cap. The scene is worth mentioning because A) guys like Murray helped to build it, and B) it’s so comically outsized and ostentatious that even Riley seems a little embarrassed by it.

Asked about Murray, Riley tugs at the bill of his OU golf cap and starts talking about the one and only occasion he’s known Murray to run a timed 40-yard dash, right after Murray transferred to Oklahoma in 2015.

“He left Texas A&M and came here after the first semester ended, early December, so by the time we got him he hadn’t been playing a sport for about six weeks,” Riley says. “It was the first time in his life he wasn’t playing a sport, and it was easily the most out of shape I’ve ever seen him. For him, he was kind of pudgy. I knew he was very athletic, but I thought he might come in here and run a 4.5, which for a quarterback is blazing fast. Well, we tested him the first week he got here and he ran a 4.3 on a laser. That was just like — wow. Out of shape — wow. And that’s the last 40 he’ll ever run in his life.”

Is that why Murray didn’t run at the combine or his pro day?

Riley draws his words out like blown glass.

“There … is … no … need.”
“I think he’s going to challenge the NFL’s thinking and then blow it out of the water,” says Murray’s high school coach, Tom Westerberg. Brett Deering/Getty Images
VIEWED FROM A certain angle, Kyler Murray’s life has taken shape as a variation on a theme. Thirty-six years before Kyler became an Athletic, 18-year-old Kevin Murray, Kyler’s dad, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played one unsatisfying year in the minors before deciding to play quarterback at Texas A&M. He was sued by the Brewers, who claimed breach of contract and demanded that Kevin’s $35,000 signing bonus be repaid.

2019 NFL DRAFT

When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
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After leaving baseball, Kevin led the Aggies to two Southwest Conference championships, set SWC records for total offense and sat through 12 rounds of the 1987 draft without hearing his name. Nineteen quarterbacks — Mark Vlasic, Sammy Garza, Ken Lambiotte, Dave Walter from Michigan Tech — were taken in 12 rounds of that draft, and a Dallas Morning News story on Kevin after the draft ran under the headline, “He’s a QB Nobody Wants.” In the story, one NFL scout, as if calling out a 1987 bingo card for criticizing black quarterbacks, said the league decided Kevin was “a little arrogant, didn’t always go to school; his work habits are not good and he’s moody.” There was talk that he was an inaccurate passer, despite his completing nearly 60 percent of his passes at a place and time when throwing the ball happened primarily on third-and-10. An unnamed A&M official at the time told the Morning News that Kevin wasn’t drafted because he was black, and Lynn Amedee, A&M’s offensive coordinator, said, “Somebody blackballed him.”

Kevin, who still runs a quarterback-training service, was a prominent figure at Kyler’s pro day workout in Norman. He was on the field helping his son warm up before his throwing drills, and he and his wife, Missy, stood directly behind Kyler as Zorn led the throwing session. “Kevin isn’t there so he can say, ‘Look what I’ve done,'” Zorn says. “He’s supporting his son. The son could say, ‘Dad, go away,’ and he would. But Kyler respects his dad and appreciates what he’s doing for him.” When I introduced myself to Kevin earlier in the day and told him I’d like to interview him in the coming weeks for this story, he nodded noncommittally and flashed a look that discouraged further conversation.

“Kevin is tough,” Westerberg says. “He has a pretty good front to people who don’t know him. He definitely wants what is best for his son, but he is not a coddling parent. If Kyler does something wrong, he’s going to get the same look Kevin gave you.”

Camp Murray is a tightly sealed ecosystem but is not without its complications: Kevin’s brother, former big league outfielder Calvin Murray, is a longtime lieutenant of agent Scott Boras, who handled Kyler’s baseball negotiations. When Kyler announced his decision to play football instead of baseball, any further public discussion of baseball was prohibited. Kyler and his parents declined to be interviewed for this story, and two sources — despite having nothing but laudatory things to say about Kyler — had to clear it with the family before consenting to speak.

No man’s distrust is abstract, untethered to the lines and angles that shape his life, and in that light, Kevin’s protection of Kyler is understandable. Kyler is a 21-year-old public figure in a hypercritical environment where everyone has a voice, and opinions are wielded like knives. The insulation and learned circumspection is part of the reason Kyler lives in the spotlight and yet remains unconstrained by it. Athletes would seem to face a binary choice: Embrace the fame or avoid it. Either on guard or onstage. Murray resides in a third realm: He ignores its very existence. If you don’t acknowledge it, is it really there? And when it’s been there as long as you can remember — when coaches know your name when you’re 9 and kids four states over are watching your high school highlights as pregame hype — does it eventually blend into the background, just more white noise?

“Kyler’s aware of the attention — he just doesn’t care,” Riley says. “When he first got here, it was almost like he was a little anti-social. He’s come to embrace it a little more. He doesn’t dread that part of it now. When he first got here, he didn’t want to do interviews. He was like, ‘It’s not going to help me become a better football player, so why should I do it?’ Not to be a jerk — it’s just not him. I told him, ‘If you want to be what you want to be — an NFL quarterback or an All-Star center fielder — this is part of it. You have to develop this part just like you do other parts of your game.'”
Did he? Riley says Murray got better, that he tried, but there’s not a lot of conviction in his words, and the results are inconclusive. During Super Bowl week, Murray appeared on the Dan Patrick Show as part of a promotional gig for Gatorade, and the interview devolved into an excruciating question-and-nonanswer session about whether he would play baseball or football. He assiduously avoided any in-depth media interviews as the draft approached. CeeDee Lamb, an Oklahoma receiver who caught 1,158 yards’ worth of passes from Murray last year, says he’s never met anyone who can isolate himself from outside influences, good and bad, the way Murray can. He laughs just thinking about it and says, “Kyler, man — he’s away from everything. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it.”

And within those words is a mystery that remains unsolved: Is he blocking it all out, or taking it all in? Someone, probably someone in Arizona, is about to launch a revolt against the establishment, and who better to lead than a guy who leaves expectations flailing in his wake? Murray’s next challenge is both enormous and simple: upend decades of convention and, along the way, determine whether new expectations represent limits — or possibilities.

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A day after the Seahawks dropped their season opener at Denver, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made his usual appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle to discuss a game in which the Seahawks “missed an opportunity.”

“We had a great opportunity,” Carroll said. “We made the plays to get us ahead with a great touchdown pass to (Tyler Lockett), and we just needed to hold it, and we didn’t do it.”

Here are six takeaways from Carroll’s weekly appearance on the Brock and Salk Show:

1. Big plays were a killer.

The Seahawks defense played well in spurts, particularly in the second half, but when asked his single biggest takeaway from the loss, Carroll quickly pointed to the big plays Seattle gave up, which included two long touchdown passes.

“We didn’t play good enough football,” Carroll said. “I say that because we had two enormous plays on defense that changed the game, we busted both of them. They were just busts. Sometimes you survive those kinds of plays and get onto the next, but for them to throw a flat route for a touchdown, and then they throw a crossing route for a touchdown and it’s a gimme, that’s too much in that game. Make them earn their way down the field, maybe they kick field goals instead and it’s a totally different outcome. It’s our inability to just be really clean throughout the game. We showed some newness, and unfortunately it got us.”

2. Russell Wilson “got hammered,” but also can be better.
When asked to assess the play of his quarterback, Pete Carroll noted that Russell Wilson was under pressure quite a bit, though the quarterback himself acknowledged that a few of the six sacks he took were his fault.

“He got rushed,” Carroll said. “He got hammered, we got sacked six times in the game. He was in the midst of some of those, he bailed a couple of times and got in trouble, but we didn’t protect him as well as we needed to throughout… Unfortunately we didn’t protect him enough to have a really clean game.
“I think it was a hard game. Right off the bat we got hammered. He got hit a couple times in this game, it makes a difference. Every quarterback who has ever played feels that stuff, so you have to get around it. I thought he bounced back when he could, we didn’t quite it done—what really shows up is the third-down numbers, 2 out of 12, you’re not going to get it done. There were too many third-and-longs. That’s enough to wreck your day if you don’t overcome it. We weren’t as clean as we needed to be. He could play way better, he could have gotten us out of some issues early by getting rid of the football a couple of times… Russ needed to do better than he did yesterday, but we needed to help him a lot.”
3. The Seahawks didn’t run the ball enough.
In part because of the aforementioned third-down issues, the Seahawks didn’t get their running game going as much as they would have liked, particularly early, because the offense didn’t stay on the field long enough. The Seahawks finished the game with just 14 rushing attempts by running backs, seven each for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

“We didn’t do it enough,” Carroll said. “That goes back to, we didn’t convert on third down, so then you’re off the field so you don’t get to use the ready list you have. We didn’t get through it, we ran the ball six times in the first half. How many plays did we have, 15 plays in the first half? That’s not enough to figure it out.”
That being said, Carroll still saw some things in those limited opportunities that leave him encouraged about the running game going forward.

“The angle block stuff happened again, we hit the trap, we hit a nice wham play,” Carroll said. “We did some nice stuff, there’s some things there for us that are going to be good, we’ve just got to get to them, we didn’t have the opportunity to access them.”

With another elite pass rusher coming up next week, the Seahawks know they need to run the ball better and more often to keep Khalil Mack from being too disruptive.

“It has to happen,” Carroll said. “It has to happen. We need to do that. You can’t get sacked when you’re running it.”

 

4. “Everybody should be really excited about” Brandon Marshall.
Brandon Marshall made his Seahawks debut a memorable one by recording his first touchdown catch since 2016, a 20-yarder in the third quarter that was also Seattle’s first third-down conversion of the afternoon. What excited Carroll most about Marshall, who had three catches for 46 yards, is that the veteran pass-catcher is just getting going with Wilson and Seattle’s offense.

“He played great,” Carroll said. “He really practiced beautifully through the last couple of weeks, really finally got into shape and looked good and felt confident in his breaks and his cuts and his catches and all that. He’ll improve a lot with Russ. There’s a chemistry here that can go to a real high level. They’re working at it and communicating well, but it’ll get better. Russ knows that he’s open, he knows he can make the catches, he’s looking at him with the thought that he can make some stuff happen. We went right to him in the red zone. Unfortunately we get the (offensive pass interference) penalty on the first one, he should have had two touchdown catches on the day. I think everybody should be really excited about this. I know we are.”
5. Earl Thomas’ return was handled well on all sides.

Earl Thomas returned to the team last Wednesday after a holdout that covered all of training camp and the preseason, and not only did Thomas play well on the field, recording five tackles and an interception that set up a touchdown, he and the rest of the team also impressed Carroll with the way everyone responded to Thomas’ return.

“What was really exciting to see is just how it all came down,” Carroll said. “The way Earl handled it, the way the players handled it. Our guys in here really dealt with it just right, and Earl was embraced. Everybody made him feel comfortable. We realized that he might be the most uncomfortable guy in the place, just not knowing how he would be received, and our guys couldn’t have done it better really.”

6. Injury updates.
Receiver Doug Baldwin left the game with what Carroll said was an MCL sprain, and as of Monday morning there were no new specifics for Carroll to report.

“I haven’t heard back,” Carroll said. “He was sore last night, but he was walking OK and all that, he wasn’t hampered in that regard. He got hurt. There isn’t anybody tougher than him, and if he can come back he’ll come back. That’s why he went back in the game, and they were trying to talk him out of it to get him out of there.”
Linebacker K.J. Wright, who missed Sunday’s game while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, will run hard on Monday, but Carroll made it sound like it’s unlikely Wright will be back for Monday night’s game at Chicago.

“K.J. is running today for the first time really hard, so we’ll find out,” Carroll said. “It would be a miraculous return if he makes it back this week.”

Carroll doesn’t yet know if D.J. Fluker will get back from a hamstring injury, but if he has to miss a second straight game, the Seahawks feel confident with J.R. Sweezy at right guard.

“D.J., we’ve got to make sure we don’t take him too far too fast, we’ve got make sure he gets through,” Carroll said. “And Sweez did a good job in there for him, so we’re OK there if we’ve got to hold him another week.”

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Back when David Moore was an under-recruited receiver at Gainesville High School, his mom offered up some advice before he eventually went on to a successful college career at Division II East Central University.

“Listening to my mom, she would tell me, ‘it’s not about where you go, it’s what you do when you get there,’” Moore said. “Then when I got (to ECU), I had a good connection with my coach, and it just felt like home. The rest is history.”

It turns out Angie Moore might have been onto something. Because even if her son had to go to a Division II school in Oklahoma to show what he could do on the football field, Moore’s talents still got him noticed by NFL teams, including the Seahawks, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. Moore spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad before eventually earning a late-season call-up, and now with a year of experience under his belt, he looks not just like somebody who’s likely to make the team, but like a potential impact player.

“He has shown us that he really has special catching ability,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s got really good ability at the point of attack… At the point of attack, he’s really strong. He doesn’t look as studly as he is, he’s about 216, 218 (pounds), and he plays to that strength and it works for him. And he’s really good when the ball’s contested. So, that’s the thing that we like the most about and we know he can make things happen, so we really want to keep working to fit him in. He came from a program that was not at the same level that we’re at, so he’s been in the catch-up mode for some time. But, he’s way farther ahead than he was last year at this time, and we clearly have an appreciation for what he can do with the ball. He can catch the kicks too and punts, he’s ready to do all that stuff when we want him too. He’s really just become a bigger factor, and now we got to see how we can use him and see if we can get him in the right spots to utilize his talent.”
What’s most noteworthy about that praise being heaped upon Moore isn’t so much that an NFL head coach said those things about a former D-II player and seventh-round pick, it’s that Carroll said all of that two weeks ago before Moore was a standout in Seattle’s second and third preseason games. In Seattle’s second preseason game at Los Angeles, Moore made one of the plays of the preseason, somehow snatching the ball away from two defensive backs for a 52-yard gain. On the very next play, Russell Wilson went back to Moore, who drug his defender to the 1-yard line for a 19-yard catch. Last week in Minnesota, Moore caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Alex McGough, and he also returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, but that play came back due to a holding penalty.

Through three preseason games, Moore has a team-high 142 receiving yards and his five catches are the most among Seahawks receivers. He has also been a regular contributor on multiple special teams units before adding return duty last week. Moore said a year of NFL experience, even if most of it came in the form of practice, has made a world of a difference.

“When I was a rookie, it was all new, so having a year to learn it and learn from the best, I’m a lot more comfortable and I’m playing faster,” he said. “.. It’s just having another year under my belt. Last year was a learning process, just gaining knowledge from the veterans and coaches, and just getting some trust. I’m just coming out here playing fast, being more comfortable.”
And for all the spectacular plays Moore has made in preseason games, what really helps his chances of having a bigger role in 2018 is the way he performs on a daily basis in practice.

“It’s really nothing that we don’t see every day in practice,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of Moore’s big-play ability. “We see it all the time in practice. What he’s doing now, which is cool, is the consistency. He’s doing it day-in, day-out. It used to be, when I first got here, there’d be a practice he’d have a great one then he’d take a couple steps back. We’re not seeing that; we’re seeing him play consistent. He’s so big, so powerful, and how competitive he can be to go up and fight. And that one catch (against the Chargers), I still don’t know how he got it, it’s pretty amazing.”

Moore’s playmaking ability has him looking like a player capable of a breakout season in 2018, something that seemed a long ways off when he was heading off to begin a Division-II college football career. Fortunately for Moore and the Seahawks, he followed the advice of his mom, and continues to do so today.

It’s not about where you go, it’s what you do when you get there.

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RENTON Nothing new about Earl Thomas. He missed another Wednesday practice, for the fifth consecutive game week.

But this is new: Seattle’s All-Pro safety is much more iffy to play than he has been all season.

Thomas continues to rest and get rehabilitation on his strained right hamstring he sustained late in last weekend’s win over Houston. He may not practice until Friday, if then. The Seahawks may not know until pregame warmups before they host Washington on Sunday if Thomas can play.

“No, not yet. We are going to wait a couple days,” coach Pete Carroll said before Wednesday’s practice. “We will see on Friday.”
Bradley McDougald is readying to make his first Seahawks start.

General manager John Schneider and his personnel staff signed the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter in the spring, to backup both Thomas and strong safety Kam Chancellor. His coaches have been finding increasing roles for him as a bigger, fifth, “nickel” defensive back inside against big receivers including tight ends.

“I’ve been working to be a starter since I’ve been here,” McDougald said. “So this is nothing different.”

Carroll says the Seahawks are lucky to have him.

“Very fortunately, on our end of it, Bradley has been a starter in the league for years and he’s got the experience, the savvy,” Carroll said. “He is a play maker. He is really tough. He’s a good tackler, and we have spotted him all over the place to do things in coverage as well as the running game. He is just a really, really good football player to be able to set up.

“There is no question. We don’t have any hesitation in him playing or keeping the plan, principles intact or anything of that. This was a guy that we were very fortunate to get in the offseason. John figured this one out early on and he’s been a great addition to our team and now he is ready to go. He is excited about it and I’m anxious to see him play.”
The Seahawks had 10 players sit out practice. That’s not entirely alarming on any November Wednesday after banging for seven games.

#Seahawks practice: Earl Thomas may not play; Jarran Reed new. Others seem vet rest/maintenance–except for Lane still coming back from HOU pic.twitter.com/DV5hBXfCN9

— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) November 1, 2017
Of those, Chancellor, Wagner, Bennett and Freeney seemed like veteran rest and/or maintenance days for nagging aches.

Lane was still returning from Houston after he failed his physical exam following Seattle trading him to the Texans to get left tackle Duane Brown, who debuted in Seahawks practice Wednesday. McDougald acknowledged that the situation of Lane’s return to the team that dealt him away “is definitely different” and that “Jeremy might be at a weird stage.”

My News Tribune colleague John McGrath details how awkward that whole deal is.

“Jeremy Lane is having one hell of a season,” McGrath writes. “With an emphasis on the hell.”

Reed’s concussion listing was new. He was getting praise last week from Carroll for his advancement in his second NFL season inside on the defensive front.

Britt sprained his ankle two games ago in the win at the New York Giants but finished that game while missing only six plays. He played all of last weekend’s win over the Texans. Carroll said his center and 2016 Pro Bowl alternate is OK to play again Sunday.

“He is fine,” the coach said. “We are going to go light on him today just to make sure from the aftermath of the game but he will be fine and ready to play.”

Freeney didn’t practice because he’s 37 and a future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher, and doesn’t have to.

 

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When the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Kenny Easley had cleared the barrier that distinguishes the immortal players from those who were consistently competent, a former Seahawks teammate took the news personally.

“I was so giddy,” said Paul Johns, “I felt like I was going into the Hall, too.”

Easley and Johns began their NFL careers together in 1981. The similarities essentially end there.

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Kenny Easley will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 5.
Jack Dempsey Invision/AP
Easley graduated from UCLA among the most decorated athletes of a school where Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Arthur Ashe made history before making more history. A safety drafted fourth overall by the Seahawks – and a 10th-round selection of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls – Easley brought a seriously impressive résumé to Seattle.

Johns was an obscure wide receiver from the University of Tulsa, hoping to parlay his training-camp audition into a roster spot.

“Kenny was a phenomenally gifted talent, and I didn’t even get drafted,” said Johns, who for the past 16 years has served as director of the Seahawks youth football and alumni programs. “He could have had this big-time attitude around a guy like me, yet he always treated me as an equal. I’ve never forgotten that.”

Johns landed a roster spot as a backup receiver, and excelled as a punt returner before suffering a career-ending neck injury four games into the 1984 season. Next man up, any volunteers?

10 interceptions for Kenny Easley in 1984. That led the league, and helped earn him the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
“And Kenny volunteered,” recalled Johns. “Here was the Defensive Player of the Year putting his health at risk by returning punts, but he didn’t look at the role in terms of what kind of negative consequences it might have for an All-Pro like him. He looked at it as, ‘what can I do to help my team win?’ ”

Chuck Knox’s 1984 Seahawks finished 12-4, advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Despite losing star running back Curt Warner to a season-ending knee injury, Seattle thrived with a defense that feasted on turnovers. Easley led the league with 10 interceptions, while averaging 12.1 yards per punt return.

Such versatility surprised nobody familiar with the records he set as a dual-threat, high-school quarterback in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he became the state’s first player to both pass and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

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Blitzing UCLA safety Kenny Easley blocks a punt attempt by Washington’s Aaron Wilson in the play some say broke the Huskies’ back in September 9, 1978. When UCLA pounced on the ball for a touchdown they would lead Washington by 10 points on a miserable rainy day at Husky Stadium.
Bruce Kellman Staff file, 1978
“UCLA went all the way to Virginia to get him, so that tells you what kind of athlete Kenny was,” said former Pro Bowl guard Reggie McKenzie, who spent the last two of his 13 NFL seasons with the 1983-84 Seahawks. “My first year in Seattle, early in the preseason, I realized the young man was amazing. He had the speed and quickness to play cornerback and, for that matter, any other sport. But he chose football, and was very knowledgeable about it.

“Most of all, he had the confidence of somebody who could walk it and talk it,” continued McKenzie, owner of a building supply company in the Detroit area. “Confidence is so important, because pro athletes – even the greatest of them – are at the top of their game for just a short period of time.”

Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell, a 245-pound load of unstoppable ferocity, was at the top of his game before a game against the Seahawks. Easley, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, was renowned as a sure tackler capable of matching up against anybody.

UCLA WENT ALL THE WAY TO VIRGINIA TO GET HIM, SO THAT TELLS YOU WHAT KIND OF ATHLETE KENNY WAS.

Former Pro Bowl guard Reggie McKenzie.

But given the tale of the tape – advantage Campbell, by 40 pounds – Easley figured to be looking at a long and not particularly pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Easley relished the challenge.

“He was all business, focused and intense,” said Johns. “It was like he couldn’t wait to barrel into Earl Campbell, who in those days was punishing anybody in his way. Kenny promised me, ‘there’s gonna be some flesh flying and bones cracking.’ ”

As a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1980s, Easley’s enshrinement credentials are undeniable. But his election also addressed a need for a more balanced Hall of Fame that has long disregarded the safety, a hybrid job requiring the footwork and speed to shadow receivers, along with the strength and grit to initiate those full-tilt collisions cornerbacks typically avoid.

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Seattle Seahawks safety Kenny Easley (45) drops back in coverage against the Denver Broncos.
John McDonough NFL Photos
Including Easley, only eight players exclusively identified as safeties have been extended pro football’s ultimate honor. The most recent safety to make the cut for Canton was the Vikings’ Paul Krause, who retired in 1979. Voters needed only 19 years to determine the league’s career interception leader was worthy.

“There have not been enough safeties selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I don’t know why,” Easley said during a conference call last month, before taking a stab at an explanation. “When people look at defense, they look at the defensive linemen, the linebackers and the corners – particularly the corners, because a lot of them play man-to-man, and sometimes you get nice matchups between the cornerback and the wide receiver.

“Most of the time, the strong safety and free safety don’t match up with anyone. We provide help to the corners and the linebackers. Only about two or three percent of the time do we match up singularly against the tight end. Because of that, the strong safeties and free safeties have been underappreciated when it comes to selecting the Hall of Famers.”

Easley, 58, will be happy to open the door for the likes of Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and John Lynch, as well as such active safeties as Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

4 players to spend their entire careers with the Seahawks and be inducted into the hall of fame. Easley joins Steve Largent, Walter Jones and Cortez Kennedy to accomplish the feat.
“You’ve got a host of very good safeties coming down the pike,” Easley said, “and you’re going to have to give due respect to them, because they had long and very prosperous careers.”

Easley’s career was prosperous but not very long: First-round draft pick in 1981, Defensive Player of the Year in 1984 and, finally, Hard Luck Story of the Year in 1988, when he failed a physical exam after the Seahawks traded him to the Phoenix Cardinals.

His kidneys were damaged beyond repair. With football permanently out of the picture, Easley devoted his focus to the somewhat more pressing issue of staying alive. He survived on dialysis treatment for several months while awaiting a kidney-replacement match.

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FILE – In this Jan. 8, 1984, file photo, Los Angeles Raiders running back Frank Hawkins (27) pushes his way across the goal line for his second touchdown of the day despite the defensive efforts of Seattle Seahawks’ Kenny Easley during an NFL football game in Los Angeles.
Anonymous AP file, 1984
Easley traced his kidney ailment to ibuprofen tablets, liberally distributed by Seahawks trainers, after he sustained an ankle injury. He sued the organization and reached a settlement out of court, but when you’re awaiting an organ transplant, any monetary compensation is minimal.

Easley suspended communication with the Seahawks for 15 years, a stalemate that still might remain unresolved had Paul Allen not bought the embattled franchise from Ken Behring in 1996.

YOU’VE GOT A HOST OF VERY GOOD SAFETIES COMING DOWN THE PIKE AND YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO GIVE DUE RESPECT TO THEM, BECAUSE THEY HAD LONG AND VERY PROSPEROUS CAREERS.

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Easley

Upon assuming control, Allen identified appeasement with Easley as a top priority. A Ring of Honor ceremony was in order, Easley was told, and he considered the request the way any father of grown children would.

The kids knew Easley had played pro football, but he wasn’t the type to flaunt trophies on bookcases designed to hold books.

“I’m glad my children got to be a part of it,” Easley said of his 2002 Ring of Honor induction. “They learned about their father and what he had done, and how successful he had done it.”

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Kenny Easley raises the 12th Man flag before the Divisional Playoff game against the Panthers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.
Staff file, 2015
Throughout a childhood during which he competed on football, basketball and baseball teams coached by his tough-loving dad – a retired Marine, the antithesis of “Little League Father” – Easley wore No. 5. The exception was the season he lined up at left offensive guard in middle school and transformed into No. 55.

At UCLA, same thing: He was a ferocious Five.

Because of the NFL’s draconian policies regarding every aspect of apparel – uniform numbers must be, well, uniform, consistent with positions – Easley, as a defensive back, was prohibited from wearing No. 5 with the Seahawks. He ended up No. 45, keeping the five alive.

On the night before Easley learned of his election into the Hall of Fame, this past February, he woke up from a dream so vivid it induced a cold sweat. He’d envisioned his jersey hanging in the Seahawks Ring of Honor at CenturyLink Field, alongside the franchise’s four other retired numbers: No. 12, for the fans; No. 80, for wide receiver Steve Largent; No. 71, for offensive tackle Walter Jones, and No. 96, for defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy.

Largent, Jones and Kennedy are enshrined in Ohio. Easley interpreted the dream as nature’s way of telling him he was destined to join them. When Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker knocked on Easley’s hotel door a few hours later, “it was almost a formality,” he said. “Almost like it was meant to be.”

Almost like it was meant to be? For the five-time Pro Bowl participant, of course it was meant to be.

The induction ceremony is Aug. 5.