DK Metcalf has emerged as one of the NFL's bright young stars over the past two seasons.
Last season he earned Pro-Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors while breaking Steve Largent's franchise record with 1,303 receiving yards. Throw in a comic book-character physique, one of the season's most viral plays—his chase down of Cardinals safety Budda Baker to prevent a pick-six—and a busy offseason that included taking on some of the country's best sprinters in the 100-meter dash, and you have all the makings of a bona fide star player.
This season Metcalf is off to another strong start, with 606 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games, but he has also found himself in a lot of post-whistle incidents with opposing defensive backs. Not only do opposing defensive backs look to get under his skin, particularly now that word is out that he might react, but the increased spotlight means it's all the more likely whatever he does is going to get noticed. Consider it the downside of being a star.
On Sunday in Green Bay, a frustrated Metcalf got into an altercation late in the game that led to him being ejected, his third 15-yard penalty this season to go along with a taunting call following a Gerald Everett touchdown in the season-opener, and an unsportsmanlike conduct call for leaping and hugging the goalpost following a touchdown against the Jaguars—though really, is anyone that bothered by a player hugging the goalpost in celebration? Metcalf also made headlines for a Twitter spat with Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe following a loss last month.
And while Metcalf will always be a passionate player, he knows he does need to stop doing things that reflect poorly on the team or hurt the team in terms of penalty yardage.
"Me and (Seahawks coach Pete Carroll) have talked like three times, I think I have had an outburst three times this year, so we have talked three times and the conversation has always gotten better," Metcalf said. "I'm a passionate player and I'm never going to back down from anything. He understands that, but at the same time, I'm starting to become a leader on this team, and I've got to grow up and continue to get better. I know that I'm still a work in progress. I don't like to use my age as an excuse, but sometimes I forget that I'm 23 years old. I have to continue to grow each day and the mistakes are going to get fixed."
Defensive backs will always try to get under Metcalf's skin and see how he reacts, especially until he proves he can't be goaded into retaliating, and he's often times handled those situations without drawing flags, instead getting his opponent to commit the penalties, as was the case against New Orleans' Marshon Lattimore this season and New England's Stephon Gilmore last year.
"I'm not going to back down from anything," he said. "I felt I was being challenged, and growing up is realizing that challenge and making the best decision for the team and not for myself.
"I was doing it last year with Stephon Gilmore and Jalen Ramsey, so I've been doing it, but I'm just under a tighter microscope right now. Everybody is watching me to see what I do and how I would react. I'm taking that into account every time I'm going into a game or preparing for a week where I'm being looked at. It's just another challenge that I have to overcome."
Metcalf's head coach and his teammates have all been supportive this week and fully expect him to cut back on the post-whistle flags while still playing with the competitive nature that helps him be one of the NFL's top receivers.
"We talked (Sunday) night on the plane some and then talked again (Monday)," Carroll said. "We are on the topic. The last thing he wants is for this to continue. He's been really good for five or six weeks now, he's just been playing ball and digging in. He wants to make sure that's what his work stands for, so I'm anxious to see him come back out this week and get going."
Linebacker and team captain Bobby Wagner was seen trying to calm Metcalf on the sideline on Sunday, and this week he pointed out to Metcalf that plenty of young players in the spotlight have had similar issues at times, including Richard Sherman, and noted sometimes it takes a teammate on the sideline to help calm the situation, even if in the moment that's not what the player in question might want to hear.
"This is a passionate game, a game played with a lot of emotions," Wagner said. "Sometimes you need a person to kind of bring you back in… He'll be ok. Sometimes you don't want to listen to people that are older than you, and then they say the right trigger word to get you to listen. I know some words."
Wagner said he isn't worried about Metcalf going forward: "I think it's part of growth. There's a lot of growth when you first come in the league. I think it depends. I remember having moments where I was kind of angry and frustrated, things of that nature on the sidelines, but I wasn't at the level as he is with everything he had going on with the chase down (of Baker), with the stuff he does off the field, with his hair. There's a lot of eyes on him. They're always going to be looking and seeing. I don't think what has happened is anything out of the norm."
And with these post-whistle issues hopefully behind him, Metcalf is looking forward to a big second half to the season, not so much for himself from a statistical standpoint—though him putting up big numbers would no doubt be a good sign for the offense—but in terms of how the team finishes the season.
"It's not numbers-wise this year for me, it's really bringing the younger guys along and like I said, just being a leader on this team," he said. "I've been here for three years now. I know what it feels like to win and I'm starting to see how it feels to lose. I'm helping the younger guys see that we still have to believe, and we still have to fight, because we still have eight games, can still finish 11-6, and possibly win the division. We have to keep fighting and keep believing, because it's always brighter on the other side."
The Seahawks face the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium for Week 9 of the 2022 season. Take a look back at photos from previous games between the two teams.