His numbers don't lie

Posted Oct 20, 2010

Lawyer Milloy stresses that he’s “not a stat guy,” but the Seahawks’ veteran strong safety continues to achieve statistics that put him in some very elite company.

Lawyer Milloy is not a stats guy, unless you count the W’s posted by the four teams he has played for during his 15-year NFL career.

But when you play as long – and as well – as the Seahawks’ strong safety has, those career-defining numbers come to you.

In the Week 2 game at Denver, Milloy started the 200th game of his career. After collecting two sacks in Sunday’s big win over the Bears in Chicago, he became the 11th player in league history to collect 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. He’s also a member of the exclusive 1,000-solo-tackles club.

Entering Sunday’s matchup of the NFC West co-leaders against the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field, Milloy – who will turn 37 next month – leads the Seahawks with 32 tackles. It’s a pace that will produce his 12th 100-tackle season. It also gives him 1,646 tackles for his career, which ranks third among active players behind a trio of linebackers – the Ravens’ Ray Lewis (2,391), Redskins’ London Fletcher (1,927) and Cowboys’ Keith Brooking (1,653).

While Milloy might not play for stats, he can appreciate them.

“Believe me, when I look back, I’ll be proud of my legacy here and in the NFL,” Milloy said Wednesday. “I think I’m doing my part.”

Ya think? In his second season with the Seahawks, but first as a starter, Milloy has become the best kind of leader for a young team – a lead-by-example mentor. His presence is good for rookie free safety Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, his rookie backup; as well as the entire defense.

“We’re always looking for unique qualities that players have and then we draw out those unique qualities and implement them into our plans,” said Pete Carroll, who first coached Milloy when both were with the New England Patriots and has been reunited with the veteran safety this season.

“He has some stuff that he’s really good at.”

Against the Bears, that was playing as a linebacker in the seven-defensive back package devised to pressure Chicago QB Jay Cutler. Milloy picked up the two sacks, his first since 2006 when he was playing with the Atlanta Falcons.

“He’s a better rusher than most defensive backs would be,” Carroll said. “He understands principles because he’s had so many chances over the years and he’s really aggressive by nature and very, very physical. So he can do some things.”

And he’s been doing them for a long time. When Milloy entered the league in 1996 as a second-round draft choice out of the University of Washington, Thomas was 7 and Carroll was the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.

Asked about his longevity, Milloy first said he didn’t know what to say. Then he offered, “I’ve been blessed to not have significant injuries. I think that’s a big part of it and I think that’s really credited to my approach to the game – go in at 100 percent. I try to take it to them before that take it to me.

“And, most importantly, I think it’s the Lord keeping me out of dangerous situations.”

Milloy also feels blessed that he has shared two of his most notable accomplishments with two other strong safeties that he admires. In Denver, the Broncos’ Brian Dawkins also made his 200th career start in the same game as Milloy. Sunday, Milloy will be on the same field with the last player to join the 20/20 club – the Cardinals’ Adrian Wilson, who did it last December.

“Those are two guys I really respect the way they play the game at my position,” Milloy said. “You’ve got a guy in Brian Dawkins, a lot of similarities, a lot of irony in our careers – coming in in the same draft class, him being a leader on all the teams he’s been on.

“A little bit different paths at certain points in our careers, but for the most part I think the same things are being said about him that are being said about me.”

Wilson had to wait a little longer to claim his fame than Milloy and Dawkins, as he wasn’t voted to his first Pro Bowl until his sixth season – while Milloy went to the first of four Pro Bowls in his third season and Dawkins to the first of his eight in his fourth season.

“I saw tremendous upside to him even when he didn’t have his notoriety,” Milloy said. “And that wasn’t because of anything he wasn’t doing, it was because he was on a team that wasn’t doing very well. But since he came into the league, I think he’s one of the guys going into preparation that offenses need to know where he’s at.”

As Milloy said of Dawkins, those same kinds of things he said about Wilson are being said about Milloy.

“He’s a joy to coach,” Carroll said. “He loves the game so much. He’s so tough. And he’s adding to not just the fire of what we’re all about, but he’s adding to it scheme-wise, too.”

Like that pass-rushing ability that was unleashed on the unsuspecting Bears.

“We saw (Seattle blitzing defensive backs) on film, but not this much,” Bears running back Chester Taylor said after the game. “I am pretty sure it was working for them, so they just stuck with it.”

That they did, with Milloy leading the charge. In addition to his two sacks, he pressured Cutler into some incompletions and also set up his teammates.

“When Lawyer comes (as a rusher) its’ just a different tempo,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Some of the times he pressured, he was setting up a defensive lineman. He would hit an offensive lineman and allow (defensive end Chris) Clemons to come back in on a loop stunt.

“We’ve put a lot of Lawyer’s plate and he’s taken it and run with it.”

Which is why the Seahawks went to Milloy when added pressure was a necessity.

“He has beautiful timing when he pressures, a sense for when the quarterback is going to run the cadence down and all that,” Carroll said. “He’s great at it. So we’ll keep messing around with him, have some fun and keep moving him around.”

Music to Milloy’s ears. At almost 37, he wants to be in the middle of whatever the coaches cook up, just as he was at 17 and 27. In fact, he pushes for it.

“The biggest compliment I can have is, ‘I like the way you play the game,’ ” Milloy said. “I’m still hearing that almost at the tender age of 37. Those are the things that keep me really excited about my future, and what I’ve done past and present.”

The statistical accomplishments that keep coming his way are just the icing on his 15-layer cake of a career.