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Will Blackmon leaps back to Lambeau
The Seahawks’ nationally televised matchup against the Green Bay Packers on Friday night is not just another preseason game for Will Blackmon.
The seventh-year cornerback and return man isn’t only returning to Lambeau Field, where his NFL career began after the Packers selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. This one is a real homecoming for Blackmon.
“You know what? It’s always a big deal,” he said on Thursday. “I still have a house there. I’ve got to check on that.”
But there’s a lot more to this exhibition than that for Blackmon, whose career has been interrupted by knee and foot injuries.
“It’s where it all started,” Blackmon said of leaping back to Lambeau.
When the Seahawks were able to sign him in February, after Blackmon had sat out the 2012 season, the obvious question was: Why is this guy available?
“Injuries,” was the answer from anyone you asked at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
“That’s exactly why,” Blackmon said. “I dealt with a lot. I sat out all last year just because teams used that against me.”
“I’m good now,” he said. “And I’m glad things are going well now. I’m happy I have another chance.”Instead of dwelling on the past, Blackmon has adopted a that-was-then/this-in-now approach in his quest to earn a spot on the Seahawks’ 53-man roster.
Even if the competition at cornerback is thicker than a Southern drawl. The starters are Richard Sherman, who voted All-Pro last season; and Brandon Browner, who played in the Pro Bowl after the 2011 season. There also are incumbent backups Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell. And don’t forget Antoine Winfield, a three-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Minnesota Vikings who was signed this offseason to be the third corner in the nickel package.
But overcoming injuries has left Blackmon with an attitude that he can deal with anything anyone might throw at him.
“The thing that’s great about Will, coming back from his injury, the work that he’s put in,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “So you get fired up for a guy who’s had to work this hard to come back. And then we’ve all been at (training) camp, where you see a guy coming back from injury and trying to do it.
“But Will’s playing and he’s doing a good job. It fires you up as a coach to see this guy and how hard he’s going for it. I have a lot of respect for him.”
That’s why Quinn was so pleased to see Blackmon break up a third-down pass in the red zone during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night in the Seahawks’ home opener.
“It doesn’t surprise you when you see some of the plays he’s made in games, because we’ve all seen it here in practice,” Quinn said. “Some of the ones it shows up even more are down in the red zone, where he has the ability to stay on top and make plays on the ball. That’s been the one constant.
“I said that to the team the other day. I said, “It certainly doesn’t surprise you to see Will make some plays when he’s done it in practice.’ ”
But the thing Blackmon always has done best is create magic when he gets the ball in his hands while returning punts or kickoffs. In a 2007 game against the Oakland Raiders, with the Packers needing a victory to clinch the NFC North title, Blackmon became only the fourth player in NFL history to return a punt (57 yards) and recover a fumble (on a punt return) for touchdowns in the same game.
In the 2008 season opener, Blackmon returned a punt 76 yards for a score. In Week 10, he added another, this time a 65-yarder. Blackmon’s three punt returns for touchdowns tied the Packers’ franchise record that was set by Desmond Howard.
But he damaged his left knee early in the 2009 season and was released by the Packers on the final roster cut in 2010 with an injury settlement. He also broke his left foot in 2007 while with the Packers.
That’s how he ended up with the New York Giants in 2010, but a knee injury ended his 2011 season after six games.
His long road back, and to Seattle, has been a one-step-at-time process. It still is, even as Blackmon prepares for his return to Lambeau Field.
He’s only had two punt returns this preseason, and is averaging 10 yards. Against the Packers, he’s scheduled to be third in line on punt returns behind Golden Tate and Thurmond; and No. 4 on kickoff returns behind Jeremy Lane, Jermaine Kearse and DeShawn Shead.
But Blackmon has learned to wait his turn, and also shown he knows how to take advantage once it arrives.