ARLINGTON, Texas—When the Seahawks punt team came onto the field in the first quarter Sunday, DeShawn Shead's long wait to return to football finally came to an end.
Two surgeries and more than 11 months after he sustained ACL and meniscus injuries in a playoff loss at Atlanta, Shead made his 2017 debut, seeing significant playing time on special teams in Seattle's 21-12 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"It was great to be back out there and just be out there grinding and playing with my brothers again," Shead said. "It's been a long journey and a long road. I'm happy to be back out here whether it's one game or two games or three or four games in the playoffs.
"To come out here and get a win in my first game back, in Dallas and on Christmas Eve, I couldn't ask for anything better."
Obviously being a part of a playoff run would be significant for Shead, but even if the Seahawks miss the postseason, making it back for these last couple of games was important to him.
"It means a lot," he said. "It helps me with my confidence to know I can go out there and still play this game. I'm happy to just go out there and play with my teammates again this season and to show that the grind and hard work paid off. That's the biggest thing just to go out there and show I can play again."
Shead's injury, then a subsequent surgery in July to clean up scar tissue, meant a very long recovery and rehabilitation process. And while you would be hard pressed to find a more positive player in Seattle's locker room than Shead, he admits there were times when doubt crept into his mind.
"There were times where I was like, 'Man, there might be an opportunity for this to happen,'" he said. "But my number one focus was just to believe, just to believe I'd be back out here again. My thought process was that I wanted to be out here for game one of the regular season, so I shot for that and landed here."
If anyone was more excited about his return than Shead himself, it might have been Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who has long raved about the work ethic and competitiveness of the former undrafted rookie who worked his way from the practice squad in 2012 and 2013 to an eventual starting role.
"Having him on our team and on the sidelines and competing with us was really fun and wonderful for him," Carroll said. "It has been a long, arduous rehab, and all the way to the nub, almost the last game of the year to get him back out here. But he never lost hope that he could make it, and he just kept fighting and competing to do it. He's really the epitome of the Seahawks mentality, and he demonstrated it. It was great to have him out there."
The Seahawks come away victorious 21-12 against the Cowboys in Week 16 at AT&T Stadium.