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For Chancellor, Soldier Field marks his spot
Oct. 17, 2010. Soldier Field, Chicago.
It was on that date, and this hallowed ground, that the NFL seed which has become Kam Chancellor was planted. And it’s fitting, because the skills that comprise the ample game of the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl strong safety are reminiscent of those safeties who helped make the Bears the Monsters of the Midway: Dave Duerson, Mark Carrier, Gary Fenick and Doug Plank.
Like those Pro Bowl players, Chancellor has become a do-it-all, has-it-all safety: Tough, smart, instinctive, plays the run as well as the pass, and it difficult to determine which he does better.
And it was in the Seahawks’ Week 6 game against the Bears in Chancellor’s rookie season that we first got a glimpse of what was to come. Coach Pete Carroll used the bye week to look at Chancellor at strong safety and saw enough that the rookie stepped into that spot in the three-safety package that the Seahawks call Bandit. Chancellor’s insertion into the lineup allowed veteran Lawyer Milloy to step up and play the hybrid extra safety/linebacker spot.
The Bears didn’t know what had hit them, as Milloy collected one sack, forced another and was generally a disruptive pain in the Bears’ you-know-what as the Seahawks won 23-20.
With the Seahawks preparing for Sunday’s game against the Bears at Soldier Field, Chancellor doesn’t remember that debut of sorts as fondly.
“I had a smaller role back then,” he said. “And I was a little more nervous back then, because I wasn’t really sure of everything I had to do, all my responsibilities.”
Still, it was the beginning of what he has become.
Last season, when Chancellor stepped in as the strong safety on a fulltime basis, he finished second on the Seahawks’ No. 9-ranked defense in tackles (94) and tied for second in interceptions (four). In a 38-14 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 15, he had six tackles and forced a fumble. Chancellor was voted a first alternate to the Pro Bowl and landed on the NFC squad as an injury replacement.
This season, Chancellor is tied for second in tackles (68) on the Seahawks’ No. 5-ranked defense, but leads the unit in ooooh-hits.
At 6-feet-3 and a chiseled 232 pounds, Chancellor always has looked the part. When the Seahawks needed a player to represent them at the Nike-sponsored function to unveil their new-look uniforms in New York City in April, guess who got the gig?
But, more importantly, Chancellor is now playing the part – and playing a bigger role than you might expect for a fifth-round draft choice.
“Kam is just so much more experienced,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said when asked about the Kam Chancellor who took the field in Chicago in 2010 and the Kam Chancellor who will take the same field on Sunday.
“He has really taken on the leadership role of our defense. And he understands it so well. Probably one of his biggest roles on our team is accountability with our guys out on the field – you know, what’s acceptable, what’s not. And you need that. He’s been great.”
That leadership Bradley spoke of always has been there with Chancellor. The confidence and knowledge have only increased along with his playing time. And veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant has noticed it.
“Now, Kam is really a student of the game,” Trufant said. “He’s able to breakdown teams and get a bead on how opponents are trying to attack our defense. That’s how he makes a lot of his plays. He pays attention to detail and he’s playing like a veteran player.”
Chancellor also is aware of the subtle changes in his game that have allowed him to make such an impact.
“I really didn’t pay as much attention to that my first year. I just was out there playing,” Chancellor said when asked about the little things that have become such a big part of his game. “I study more now and understand offenses better.”
And while Chancellor had to wait his turn, even that was beneficial in his development because of the player he was playing behind and the things he learned from him – Milloy, who was a four-time Pro Bowl safety with the New England Patriots also played for the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons before joining the Seahawks in 2009.
“Just the way he attacked the game, the way he played ball on D, that helped me to see that,” Chancellor said. “He was smart about reading the offensive line, the way they pulled and how to recognize different plays that were coming at him.”
As Trufant put it, “When Kam looks back, it probably was a good thing. He was able to learn. He was able to see things. It helped his career. It helped his mentality, on and off the field, in just how to approach the game and approach being a pro. So he could kind of hit the ground running.”
And Chancellor hasn’t slowed down. He has made so many plays and had such an impact, it makes that fall afternoon at Soldier Field seems a lot longer ago than just two years.
“I feel a lot older than what I am,” he said with a smile. “I feel like I’ve been the league six years already.”