Never before has post-surgery rehabilitation been so sweet.
Generally, an injury that requires shoulder surgery is a bad thing, particularly if you're a professional athlete who makes his living, in part, hitting people with that shoulder. But for Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, the silver lining in the shoulder injury he suffered in the NFC championship game is that it has provided a little extra bonding time with his 2 ½-year-old daughter.
"I've been so involved with football, it was very hard for me to kind of know who she was or let her know who I was," Thomas said. "But having this injury, we've been great. She's really helping get me through."
Peruse Thomas' Instagram account and you'll see what he's talking about. There's Kaleigh Rose, "assisting" with her dad's shoulder exercises. Or there she is, giving daddy a kiss in a picture with a caption, "Her kisses make me feel better."
In yet another example of how a young Seahawks team has grown up before our eyes in the years since Pete Carroll and John Schneider started a massive roster overhaul in 2010, on Father's Day this year, more and more players aren't just celebrating the dads in their lives, but are enjoying the holiday as fathers themselves.
Thomas, who was only 20 when the Seahawks drafted him, now says one of the best part of life is, "waking up in the morning with her laying on top of my chest, or her saying, 'I love you.'"
Defensive backs have been turning to Richard Sherman for football advice for a few years, but now DeShawn Shead, the father of a two-month old girl, turns to Sherman, who has a four-month-old son, for parenting tips.
"I've been going to Sherm for everything," Shead said. "He's been telling me all the little things that are going on. From what's going on with the mom to all the little things with the baby… Sherm definitely helps out a lot."
Yes, the Legion of Boom does diaper changes now in addition to big hits and interceptions.
And no, it's not a particularly unusual phenomenon for an NFL roster to be sprinkled with fathers of young children, but you're reading about Seahawks dads today not just because it's Father's Day, or because it's a good excuse to post cute photos, but also because I too am in the early stages of trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. This story actually began as a simple conversation with Shead, whose daughter Savannah was born just four days after my wife and I had our first child, Colette. Knowing Shead was at a similar stage in first-time parenting as me—I like to call it the "Holy crap, I don't know what I'm doing!" stage—I figured it might be nice to compare notes. As so many veteran parents know, it can be reassuring to find out that, yes, other parents lie in bed staring at their sleeping baby just to make sure she's still breathing. Or to find out that another young baby struggled to take a bottle, or that, yes, she might just projectile vomit on you from time to time. Does your baby sometimes chokes on milk, scaring mom and dad to death? Hey, so does mine!
The vast majority of people reading this will never be able to relate to an NFL player when it comes to their professional lives. But just about any parent can relate to Sherman talking about how his sleep schedule has changed dramatically in recent months, or to Brandon Mebane talking about the tricks of changing a diaper, or to Shead saying that his girl starting to smile and react to him and his wife is, "the best feeling in the world."
Sherman isn't talking about opposing receivers when he says, "don't underestimate them in their movement skills," he's talking about his son, "because every day it's something new that they're able to do. They'll surprise you sitting up or rolling over or kicking you. You'll be like, 'I just set you down right there.' And then he's in my lap. You're like, 'wait, how did you get way over here? I set you five feet away.'"
Mebane's top advice, other than the intricacies of changing a girl's diaper, is pretty obvious, yet sometimes difficult to accomplish: "Go to bed earlier." Mebane, whose daughter Mahailey is 1, also suggests a first-timer like me appreciates an infant's lack of mobility early in the morning.
"When they start moving, they move," Mebane said. "When she's up in the morning, she's ready to play. There's no going back to sleep for five minutes. She's like a rooster in the morning. She wakes up the exact same time, and you've got to be ready."
The most important thing all these young dads have learned is the value of investing time in parenting.
"You've got to invest time, that's the most important thing," Thomas said.
Right tackle Justin Britt, who has a 2-year-old daughter, recommends "Being involved as much as you can and take some pressure off of the mother. You can't imagine what they're going through and how much they go through, so making sure you're available and want to do as much as you can."
Shead was given similar advice, noting that the baby is a lot more dependent on the mom early, "so while your wife is taking care of your baby, make sure you're taking care of her. Do some dishes, make a snack, get her some water. That's good advice."
Shead's other lesson from his first couple months of parenting?
That's sage advice both in football and fatherhood.