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Letting his actions speak for him

Posted Nov 1, 2011

Chris Clemons has a do-not-disturb attitude when it comes to media attention, but the on-field actions of the Seahawks' "Leo" end tell the true tale of his Pro Bowl-caliber contributions to the defense.


Some NFL players have never met a microphone they don’t like. Then there’s Chris Clemons, who has rarely seen one he cares to speak into in his first two seasons with the Seahawks.

But that’s OK. Because as former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox used to say, “What you do speaks so loudly that I don’t have to hear what you say.”

In that regard, Clemons has been downright boisterous. Entering this week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, he leads the Seahawks with five sacks – five of the team’s 13 sacks. He also led the team last season, with a career-high 11, after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

But it’s not just that the 254-pound Clemons gets sacks, it’s how he gets them – with relentless efforts against offensive linemen who outweigh him by 70-80 pounds. And it’s not just the sacks that define his role as the “Leo” end in the Seahawks defense. As underrated as he is as a pass-rusher, Clemons is even more overlooked when it comes to his contributions to a run defense that ranks 11th in the league and tops the NFL in per-carry average allowed (3.16).

“Clem is a phenomenal end,” fellow end Red Bryant said. “Clem will make you raise your standard of play because you know what you’re going to get out of that guy. He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

“And when you’re playing with a guy like that, you want to hold up your end.”

As for Clemons’ no-comment relationship with the media, Bryant breaks into a large smile before cracking, “He’s an angry man.”

That brought eruptive laugher from the defensive players whose cubicles are adjacent to Bryant’s in the locker room.

Bryant then shifted into a more serious mode and offered, “Clem is underrated. But that’s what he fuels off of. But those of us in this locker room, we hold him in high regard and we know what he brings to the table. He’s non-stop, relentless, mean, tough.”

To which Mebane added, “Ugly.”

Another round of laughter, before Bryant said, “He’s all that.”

But what Clemons is doing this season is no joke. He is tied for ninth in the NFC in sacks – and would be tied for seventh if one of his sacks against the Browns two weeks ago wasn’t nullified because it was deemed that QB Colt McCoy was running and not scrambling on the play. Still, only six ends in the conference have more sacks – the Vikings’ Jared Allen (12½), Eagles’ Jason Babin (9), Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul (8½)and Osi Umenyiora (6), Panthers’ Charles Johnson (7) and Rams’ Chris Long (6, with three coming in Sunday’s upset of the Saints).

The Seahawks have some national-exposure games coming up, so if Clemons is to make a push for a Pro Bowl berth the opportunities will be there when they play the Cowboys this week, the Eagles in a Thursday night game on Dec. 1 and the Rams in a Monday night game on Dec. 12.

It takes being around Clemons and watching how hard he plays on every down to truly appreciate what he brings to a table that also is occupied by much larger linemen – the 330-pound Bryant, the 311-pound Brandon Mebane and 325-pound tackle Alan Branch.

Browns coach Pat Shurmur was with Clemons in Philly.

“No, I’m not surprised after playing with him,” Shurmur said when asked about Clemons’ contributions to all the good things the Seahawks defense has been doing. “He’s very disruptive as a pass-rusher, plays hard all the time.

“He was very young when we were together with the Eagles (in 2008-09). But it didn’t surprise me. No, not at all. He’s a good player.”

On a defense that is ranked higher than those that include Allen (No. 21), Pierre-Paul and Umenyiora (No. 16), Johnson (No. 17) and Long (No. 30).

“What else can you say about Clem?” Mebane asked, rhetorically. “He’s the man.”