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Still ringing in their ears
Feeling a little left out as the NFL playoffs forge on without the Seahawks?
Before beating a hasty retreat from the locker room to enter their first NFL offseason, rookies K.J. Wright and Ricardo Lockette had matching reactions to their first season playing before the 12th MAN crowd at CenturyLink Field that should make you feel a little better: Wow, and thank you.
“I loved it,” Wright said as the players were cleaning out their cubicles in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Jan. 2. “Guys had told me about this crowd, but I wasn’t expecting this at all. This crowd has been amazing.
“It’s a blessing to play for this team because we get to play in front of that crowd.”
The Seahawks got so much from their young players during the 2011 season, and few were more surprising than those contributions supplied by Wright and Lockette.
Wright, a fourth-round draft choice, started 12 games – the opener at middle linebacker because David Hawthorne was out with a knee injury; 11 of the last 13 on the strong side because, well, he was simply too good to keep out of the lineup. And his start totals would have been even higher if the Seahawks had not opened two of the final seven games in their nickel defense – where Wright is replaced by a third cornerback.
Despite his rookie status, and the fact that he usually left the field in passing situations, Wright finished fifth on the Seahawks’ No. 9-ranked defense with 61 tackles. He also collected two sacks and broke up two passes while also forcing one fumble and recovering another.
Lockette, who was signed as a free agent after not being selected in the April NFL Draft, had to wait longer and then was afforded fewer opportunities than Wright. But that did not deter the ridiculously fast wide receiver from making a splash when his time finally came. Signed off the practice squad on Dec. 22, after Mike Williams went on injured reserve with an ankle injury that required surgery, Lockette was targeted four times in the final two games and made two receptions for a 52.5-yard average. His first NFL reception came at CenturyLink and went for 44 yards against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers – and despite tight coverage from Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers. His second, in the season finale against the Cardinals in Arizona, produced a 61-yard touchdown that tied the game in the fourth quarter before the Seahawks lost in overtime.
Talk about racking up rookie style points.
Near the top of each player’s list of memories from his rookie season, however, was the full-roar crowd at the place the Seahawks call home.
Lockette had to be impressed just by the sheer volume of the 12th MAN, regardless of the volume it generates. He played his college ball at Fort Valley State and guess-timated that the largest crowd he played before was 10,000-12,000.
“Oh my God. Oh my God,” Lockette said when asked about the crowd’s reaction to his first NFL reception. “Coming from a small school, and finally being in a large stadium at CenturyLink, I am in awe right now.
“Before that first preseason game, I was shaking all night, man. It was crazy. People told me it would be loud, but once I got in there I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Then I get into a regular-season game, and somehow it’s even louder. I look forward to the future and making even more plays in front of our fans.”
Wright played at Mississippi State, which included a game before 90,000 fans at Alabama.
“It sounds like a loud college atmosphere in there, times 10,” Wright said, comparing CenturyLink to the venues he visited while at playing in the SEC.
Times 10? “Our place is louder than it was at Alabama,” Wright said. “Way louder. It was way more than I expected. It’s exciting to play in front of this home crowd. I can’t wait to do it again.”