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Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas played with, and through, serious injuries
Put them together, and the injuries the Seahawks’ All-Pro trio played with – and through – in Sunday’s Super Bowl create a composition of courage.
Coach Pete Carroll saluted them during his impromptu news conference on Monday, before the team flew back to Seattle from Phoenix – where they had lost 28-24 to the New England Patriots on Sunday night.
Did they ever, especially when you find out just how injured their body parts were. Players don’t talk about, or even acknowledge, such things during the season. But Tuesday, Chancellor and Sherman discussed just how injured they were and how they managed to continue playing with injuries that probably should have prevented them from doing it.
And to their continuing credit, the first thing Sherman and Chancellor offered when approached was, “It’s not just us.”
There was Marshawn Lynch’s back, which prevented him from practicing at time during the week but did not stop him from leading the league in touchdowns during the regular season and in rushing yards during the postseason. And there were so many other injuries to so many other players.
But Chancellor, Sherman and Thomas were the poster players for putting mind over damaged matter.
Chancellor, who underlines the strong in strong safety like no Seahawk since Kenny Easley, got a deep bone bruise on the outside of his knee on next-to-last play in Friday’s practice. Carroll said the cause was likely from a previous injury.
“It’s not a matter of talking about being injured and playing, it’s about being grateful for getting the opportunity to still even play through the injury,” said Chancellor, as he stood in a very appropriate place – the hallway that connects the locker room to the training room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Not at 100 percent, obviously. But Chancellor did play – from optimistic start to disappointing finish – and had 10 tackles, including one for a loss.
How? “My teammates came to me, they prayed with me,” he said. “That’s when it hit me: Why am I mad? I’ve got to be grateful for how I’m feeling right now. There are some people out there worse than me. I could have had a broken knee and not been able to play. So I just prayed for health and happiness. I prayed for peace and just to be able to make it to the game and play as much as I could for my teammates.”
That’s what he did, but how did Chancellor do what he did once the game started?
“To tell you the truth, I do it from my faith,” he said. “My faith is strong and testaments like this, moments like this, make my faith stronger. I believed He was going to heal me up to play in the game, to finish the game. And that’s what happened. So my faith just becomes stronger. And then I do it for my teammates.”
L.O.B. stands for Legion of Boom – the name that Chancellor and his mates in the secondary have earned. But it also stands for Love Our Brothers.
Sherman, the interception-machine of a cornerback, damaged ligaments in his elbow in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 18 – when his arm got caught between a fast-closing Chancellor and James Starks while they were driving the Packers’ running back out of bounds. Sherman never left the game, clutching his shoulder pad with his left hand between plays. He did not miss a practice during the Super Bowl bye week or last week. Like Chancellor and Thomas, he played every defensive snap against the Patriots.
“You don’t even think about it,” Sherman said. “It’s not like you’ve got to make decision, a big-time decision. When you know what you’re playing for and you know who you’re playing for, those decisions are easy. You know your teammates are sacrificing. Marshawn has played hurt for the whole team. Russell (Wilson) has played hurt. We had a plethora of injuries on the O-line, D-line, linebackers.
“Everybody plays banged up, so you just keep grinding.”
But again, how? “You just stop thinking about that and focus in on what you’ve got to do on the play,” Sherman said. “The pain is going to be what it is. If you’ve played this game long enough, you’re usually playing in some kind of pain. That pain just happened to be more significant that day. But you just adapt, you just adjust and try to continue to do your job until you can’t do it effectively anymore.
Thomas, the best free safety in the game, was not available. But a story he told last week tells you everything you need to know about his toughness and tenacity.
“Since I was a little kid, every time I got hurt I always came back in the game,” he said. “I played third base on my All-Star baseball team and a lined ground ball hit me in my mouth. I was wearing braces at the time, so my lip got stuck to my braces. I had to go to the emergency room. My dad said, ‘Do you want to play? Do you want to go back and play?’ I was like, ‘Of course.’
“So this is me. I love competing. And I’m just glad. We’re reliving our dream. It feels like a movie.”
And make the title of that movie, “The Anatomy of Courage,” because Sherman and Chancellor also have a history of not only overcoming injuries, but ignoring them.
For Sherman, the best example was during his senior year at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif.
“I snapped my wrist in half during a track meet,” Sherman said.
And not just any track meet. It was the CIF Finals, the last stop before the state meet. Sherman had won the hurdles event, only to have another runner who was trailing him clip his heel after they had passed the finish line. When Sherman used his left arm to brace the fall, it broke his wrist.
“I had two more events to do. I ended up winning the triple jump,” he said. “Then we had two more weeks before state. So I came in fifth in state, but I had a huge cast on. So this isn’t the first time.”
Chancellor earned his red badge of courage this season. He began it by playing with a bone spur in his ankle that was so painful it was “on fire,” as Carroll put it, during the Week 2 loss to the Chargers in San Diego. Then he missed two games at midseason with a groin injury. But what he did on Sunday made those injuries seem like hangnails.
“I’ve had a tremendous year battling injuries, from offseason to in-season, to the point where I almost had surgery again on my ankle,” he said. “So I just kept praying for healing and finding a way.
“You play this game; you’re definitely going to be injured. But there’s a difference between ‘injured’ and ‘hurt.’ So that’s what I call it. You’re hurt, you’re not injured. So you’ve got to know how to make due. It’s about being able to perform every week and comeback every week and outlast those injuries and that hurt.” Read