Three years ago, the notion that Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane would be important pieces of the 2017 Seahawks defense would have hardly been an unusual one.
During the 2014 season, Maxwell was a starting cornerback and Lane was Seattle's nickel corner, and both were young players just entering their primes, so picturing them in Seattle uniforms down the road wouldn't have been difficult.
But if you'd have told somebody two weeks ago that those two would be important players for the Seahawks, that would have been harder to believe. Following Seattle's Week 8 win over Houston, Lane was initially part of a trade that would have sent him to the Texans, along with draft compensation, for left tackle Duane Brown. Maxwell, meanwhile, was a week removed from being released by the Miami Dolphins, his second team since leaving Seattle as a free agent following the 2014 season.
On Tuesday, however, both were on the practice field in Seahawks uniforms, Lane because he failed a physical with Houston—"a blessing in disguise," he called it—and Maxwell as a free-agent addition who provides experienced depth at a position dealing with the loss of All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Those two are part of a group that also includes Shaquill Griffin, a rookie who took over the starting role at right corner, Justin Coleman, who has played well in the nickel role, and Neiko Thorpe, one of Seattle's best special teams players.
"We are very fortunate to have Jeremy Lane with us and ready to play," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Shaq has become a starter, and Jeremy has legitimately been a starter, so we couldn't be much more fortunate than that to have a guy step up and a guy that has been around the program and all that. Not to mention, there are other guys in the program that have done a good job too—Justin Coleman has done well, Neiko Thorpe has done well and now picking up Maxie to see where he fits into all of that. We are just very fortunate that we have the depth that we have, and I'm going to count on them to play really well. I'm not counting on anything taking a backward step. I think we are going to keep moving forward."
Maxwell, 29, returns to Seattle after spending the last two-and-a-half seasons in Philadelphia, where he signed as a free agent, then Miami, and while things didn't work out in those two places, he still feels like he has plenty to offer to the Seahawks.
"I'm just savvier, I've seen a lot more football," Maxwell said when asked how he had changed since he last played for the Seahawks. "Just more experienced. I'd like to think I'm still in my prime, so these years are when I should get the best out of my body right now. So I'm excited about the opportunity."
Maxwell didn't want to go into detail on what didn't work out for him in Miami, but acknowledged he feels like he has something to prove after being traded by the Eagles, then later released by the Dolphins.
"Yeah, definitely," he said. "It's another opportunity to get out here and show what I can do, so I'm looking forward to it. But yeah, you've always got to prove yourself in this league no matter what. You know, Dwight Freeney, he's out here trying to prove himself that he can still do it, so no matter who you are, you're still trying to prove you can do it."
Oh, and in case you were worried that time away had changed Maxwell's fashion sense, he was still rocking the baggy sleeves under his jersey that became something of a signature look during his four seasons in Seattle.
"Of course," he said. "It's the only way to go."
Lane, meanwhile, likely will step back into the starting lineup, Carroll said, the latest step in a wild season that has seen him go from starter to injured to almost traded to, in all likelihood, starter once again. Lane has technically appeared in six games this season, but he was ejected early from Seattle's opener in Green Bay, and barely played in two other games because of injuries.
"It only took me seven weeks to get right," he said sarcastically. "I only played three games, but I'm ready now, finally. I'm ready to rock and roll."
Lane called his near-trade experience "crazy, an emotional roller coaster," but said the welcome back he received from teammates erased any potential awkwardness.
"When I came in the locker room and walked in, I thought it was going to be awkward at first, but as soon as I came in, everybody was like clapping their hands, giving me hugs, it was crazy," he said.
"It's a blessing," he added. "It's crazy how things worked out, with me being traded, coming back, and now I've got an opportunity to start now. I'm excited."
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seahawks' 22-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals during Week 10 Thursday Night Football at University of Phoenix Stadium.