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Doug Baldwin continues to come up big for Seahawks
Even on a team where the shoulder pads seem to come with chips-on-shoulder as standard issue, Doug Baldwin stands out.
“Everybody says, ‘Doug has a chip on his shoulder.’ No, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, I have a boulder on my shoulder,” the fourth-year wide receiver said Thursday, when Baldwin and his Seahawks teammates continued to prepare for Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
Because Baldwin has found a way to turn any negative into a positive.
“I’m one of these people where I don’t like it to be easy, no matter what it is,” Baldwin said. “Whatever I’m going through, whatever I’ve put myself in, I don’t want it to be easy. It’s got to be difficult. So when you have negative comments that come out about you, or your teammates, or the team itself, it just adds the fuel to the fire.
“To me, it’s not trying to prove others wrong; it’s trying to prove myself right. And prove people who believe in me right, prove them right. … To me, it’s not so much about what you’ve done, it’s what you haven’t done and what opportunities you’re going to have in the future to prove yourself right and ultimately prove those doubters wrong.”
Baldwin made those comments while standing behind a podium in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. But the way he answered that question helped explain the way he answered another question on Tuesday, while sitting in the hallway outside the cafeteria.
|DOUG BALDWIN: BY THE NUMBERS|
A closer look at Doug Baldwin’s contributions to the Seahawks this season:
50 – receptions during the regular season, second on the team
Asked about the number of how-did-he-do-that catches he has made this season, Baldwin offered, “We’re taught that you’re supposed to keep a highlight reel in your mind of all the positive things that you’ve done. But that doesn’t really motivate me. It gives me confidence in my abilities, if I ever doubt myself or if I’m ever feeling incompetent. Then I’ll put on the highlight reel to kind of boost my confidence back to where it needs to be.
“But for me, my motivation comes from the plays I didn’t make. For me, one of the plays that’s been sticking out with me since it happened, and I keep replaying in my mind not to allow it to happen again, is the one in Arizona.”
That was in the 2012 season opener. Baldwin didn’t catch Russell Wilson’s pass into the end zone on a second-and-10 play from the Cardinals’ 13-yard line with 42 seconds to play and the Seahawks trailing 20-16. But he did lose his two front teeth.
“If I had caught the pass, it would have been a game-winning touchdown,” Baldwin said. “But I landed on my teeth and broke my teeth. That, to me, is in my mentality more than any catch I have made.”
Talk about a tough crowd of one.
But that is the boulder-sized motivation that drives Baldwin, who made the Seahawks as a rookie free agent in 2011 and led the team in receiving. Before that, the Florida-born Baldwin got to Stanford only because the father of one of the administrators worked at the newspaper in Pensacola and recommended the school take a look him. And while at Stanford – where he played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh – Baldwin had his transfer papers filled out during his junior year, only to have his mother veto the idea.
Let’s just say that Baldwin is as adept at handling adversity as he is at making tough catches look easy. Like the 24-yarder he had on a third-and-3 play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Saints to set up a 31-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that iced the Seahawks’ 23-15 victory. Or the sideline snag he had for a 24-yard gain on third-and-7 against the Houston Texans in Week 4 that helped the Seahawks rally for a 23-20 victory in overtime.
Or so many of the other 50 receptions he has made this season, when 33 came during scoring drives; 36 produced first downs; 19 came on third downs; and 14 went for at least 23 yards – including a 52-yader and a 44-yarder. All of this with limited targets in an offense that has run the ball 544 times, including 35 against the Saints; and passed it 438 times, including 18 against the Saints.
What it is that allows the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Baldwin to come up so big so often, especially in clutch situations?
“He’s a great competitor. He’s got tremendous focus on battling and fighting and clawing and scratching. He comes through, and it works for him in really crucial moments. So he’s just been clutch for us and we need him a couple more times.”
Added leading receiver Golden Tate: “Doug has incredible athleticism, for one. But outside of that, he understands the game. He’s a very, very smart player, and he should be coming from Stanford. But he watches so much film. He breaks down defenses. He knows small little moves he can do to sell his route. He just finds a way. He wants it. He’s a competitor.”
For his part in all this, Baldwin said, “You have to stay focused in the moment, so when your opportunity does come you’re ready for it. Once the play starts, it’s all instinctive. There are no thoughts going through my mind. It’s more so just reacting to the situation itself and trying to make the best of the opportunity.”
And doing it with that boulder on your shoulder.