When the Seahawks host the Falcons on Sunday, one of the players Seattle's offense will have to worry about is rookie safety Keanu Neal, a first-round pick out of Florida whose size and physical style has led to comparisons to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.
And if Neal plays well against the Seahawks, it could be at least a little bit because of Chancellor, who reached out to Neal during the offseason and invited the rookie to work out with him and Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon in Virginia.
"I reached out to him and we trained this offseason," Chancellor said. "Just going over little basic stuff, the fundamentals, just playing that role in general. He's a bright kid, definitely very bright, strong and fast. We're going to see what he's going to do this weekend."
Chancellor promises he didn't give Neal any "cheat codes" when the two worked out this offseason that could help this week, but just as when he took Bucannon under his wing last offseason, Chancellor felt like he should reach out and offer to help a young player with whom he had been compared. Early in Chancellor's career, Arizona's Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson did the same for him, and now he's just paying it forward, so to speak.
"That's just my heart, that's my spirit," Chancellor said. "Anytime I see guys that's compared to me or guys that say they model themselves after my game I reach out to them. Just to give them little tidbits, little insights on the things that I've experienced through my 7 years now. Just anything to give him an edge. I just enjoy helping people. I don't have to play against him. In Norfolk I played against him, just little things to help them out with their game and their craft."
Neal was both a little bit surprised and grateful that Chancellor reached out to him via a Twitter direct message, he told atlantafalcons.com this summer, and learned more about football than just technique.
"It's all about having will power," Neal said of what he learned training with Chancellor. "There's a lot of talent in the NFL, but what separates the good from the great is their will power. Having that grit and that want no matter what. That's definitely one thing I am going to carry with me for the rest of my career."
And the exchange isn't entirely one-sided for Chancellor; there's a benefit to working out with a rookie for a seventh-year veteran
"It keeps me going," Chancellor said. "It helps me stay in shape. It helps me to continue to learn because I don't think you'll ever know everything. I don't think you'll ever know it all. It helps me to continue to learn. I think as you teach people you learn at the same time. Just being a teacher and learning at the same time."
The Seahawks and Falcons have battled 16 times, including playoffs, since 1976, with Seattle owning 10 victories. The two teams meet again this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.