Not long after Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, the tight end jumped at the chance to join teammates in Maui for offseason workouts organized by quarterback Russell Wilson.
Sure, getting a few extra reps in with a new offense would be nice, but more than anything, Graham was looking for a chance to show his new teammates who he really was. To a lot of Seahawks fans—and yes, players—Graham until recently was best known as the player who got into a pregame altercation with several Seahawks players prior to a Jan. 2014 playoff game.
So Graham went to Hawaii, bonded with his teammates—even posing for a staged "fight" photo with linebacker Bruce Irvin—and the result has been a better-than-expected first few months as a Seahawk.
"For me it was very important," Graham said after Tuesday's practice. "I've played against them a couple of times these last couple of years, and I think we've had some chippier moments. That's the game, and on Sundays I take my job very seriously—I don't play any games on Sunday. So to go to Maui and really show them who I am as a person and to show them that, 'listen, I'm all about team and I couldn't care less about myself.' Really for them to just see that I'm a good guy was really important."
Wilson has a close relationship with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, so he had heard a lot about Graham prior to getting to know him, and Graham had admired Wilson's talents from afar. But now that the two have spent time together—including Wilson traveling to Miami to support Graham last week following the death of Tamara Meyerson, Graham's longtime manager and a mother figure in his life—they have formed a strong bond in their first few months as teammates.
"To walk in the building and see his character and to really get to experience who he is as a man has been awesome," Graham said. "Last week, what he did obviously meant a lot not only to myself, but to my extended family to know that he and the entire Seahawks organization were behind me and my family."
After the Seahawks acquired Graham in a trade that sent center Max Unger to New Orleans, Wilson's first call was to Unger, but not long after he reached out to the player who should become his biggest red-zone threat in 2015.
"It was one of those things I knew that the connection was going to be very, very similar, very on point, where we wanted it to be," Wilson said. "He's a competitive person, just like I am, he wants the best for everybody, he's a great team player, and he's a guy that's going to be determined to be the best to play the game. His mindset is always that way, it's never going to change. Just spending time with him has been great. Besides football, take the football part out of it—we'll figure out all that out and we'll see how far we can go, and I think that will be a long ways—but the personal side, it's been a great fit for him, and I think it's been a great fit for us. Just the relationship and the bond that we already have—and going to Maui, I guess it was like a week or two after the trade, we got to spend a lot of quality time, everybody, together, offense and defense—that was crucial for everybody, and I think for him too especially to get to know familiar faces, and when he came in the locker room, it wasn't the first time that he got to meet people. It was easy. It's been easy so far, and we love having him, and we love his demeanor and what he's about, so it's going to be great."
Ultimately Graham's ability to produce on Sundays will be what determines the success of this trade, but things are off to a great start when it comes to team-building for a player who once nearly fought the Seahawks prior to a playoff game.
"It honestly feels like I'm back in college, that's how close each and every person is on this team," he said. "The way this team is and the way that this team is run is how it should be for the NFL. It's such a sense of family here and brotherhood. It's been incredible, it really has.
After each of his touchdowns Tuesday—and there were several—Graham punctuated the score with a huge spike, his go-to move now that dunking over the goalposts is a penalty. That drew boos and jeers from defensive players, and some good natured trash talk from players like Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner. It was a dramatically different scene than the first time Graham had Seahawks players getting in his face.
"Everything has been good so far," Graham said. "I haven't heard any complaints. That's just how it is. When you come from another team, and when you talk as much as I do when you're out there on the field, you're going to have people who don't like you until you get on their team. I'm just going to come out here and show who I am and prove who I am and help us in any way to win."
Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson showed off their red-zone chemistry in front of an open media practice today during organized team activity.