Mychal Kendricks will play his first game since September when the Seahawks host the Vikings on Monday Night Football, and that time away has changed his appreciation for the sport.
Kendricks, who signed with the Seahawks in September and appeared in three games, was suspended by the league, indefinitely at first, and then for eight games, having plead guilty to insider trading prior to signing with the Seahawks. He was able to return to practice following Seattle's Week 11 game against Green Bay, but this will be his first game back.
"Most definitely," Kendricks said when asked if his appreciation for the game has changed. "I never thought that I'd say the game of football is literally healthy for me, you know what I'm saying? But there is something that this game does for individuals like myself, and even those who watch and love the game. We all get together on Sundays, the people who are playing and the people who are watching. It's a special game, a lot of life lessons learned through the game and through this life lesson that I'm learning, the game has become even more special.
"I'm just so excited to be back. Words can't explain the energy I had out here (Friday) and all week. I'm just excited to be back."
While Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn't specify what role Kendricks will have, it is expected he'll see significant playing time against the Vikings. Kendricks, a second-round pick in 2012, played in three games for the Seahawks prior to the suspensions, starting two of them at weakside linebacker, and recorded 15 tackles and 2.0 sacks. With K.J. Wright again out with a knee injury, Kendricks could step back into that role that has recently been held by Austin Calitro.
"Mike has had a really good couple of weeks," Carroll said. "This is the third week he's been with us and he's been aiming towards this game the whole time. He looks really good on the practice field. Like when he played for us, we really felt his quickness. You could see the plays that he can make and the savvy that he has adds to it. It's going to be a while before he's truly comfortable in the playing mode just because it's happened so fast. His awareness really allows him to jump back in and we're going to expect him to be active and be a part of it and play a lot in the game."
Making Monday's return even more meaningful for Kendricks is that it will come against his brother Eric, who plays linebacker for the Vikings.
"It is pretty special," Kendricks said. "It is special in a sense that during a hard time like this, you lean on those that love you. You lean on those that have been there all your life and it's emotional coming back. What better way to come back than to play a loved one? It is special."
The Seahawks and the Vikings will meet for the 15th time in the regular season this Sunday in Seattle. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.