Shaquem Griffin wasn't expecting the news he received on cut day.
After spending two seasons on the 53-man roster, the Seahawks linebacker was waived earlier this month as part of the roster cuts prior to the start of the regular season.
But once the initial shock of that bad news wore off, and after talking it over with his twin brother and Seahawks teammate, Shaquill, Shaquem Griffin realized that he was better off preparing for his next opportunity, whenever it might come, rather than feeling sorry for himself.
After working hard on the practice squad for two weeks, Griffin got his chance when he was activated for last week's game, and he made the most of his chance, particularly on Dallas' final drive when he flashed both in pass coverage and as an edge rusher. Griffin played well enough that, while he reverted to the practice squad Monday as part of the procedure for activating players for a weekend, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has already said that Griffin will be up again to play in Sunday's game at Miami.
"For me it was just all the mindset," Griffin said. "Once you go to something like that, you have a choice to make, and for me, I didn't want to make the choice to sell myself short. I knew the plays, I know what's going on, I know the scheme, so the whole thing was just make sure I stay abreast on it and make sure that I stay ready just in case something was to happen. I didn't know the exact role was going to happen coming into the game, but I just wanted to be ready for everything. I was studying each and every position that I was involved in to make sure I knew what was going. I knew what plays was happening, so once I got opportunities, it was like, 'I shouldn't second guess myself, just go out there, run fast and make plays.'"
Earlier in the month, Griffin didn't know what his future held. When Seattle waived him, he could have been claimed by another team, or depending on what offers were out there, he could have left Seattle to join another practice squad. And while other practice squad offers did come, there wasn't much decision to be made both because Griffin feels comfortable in Seattle, and because, aside from one year when Shaquill was a rookie and Shaquem was still at UCF, the twins have never been apart.
"Definitely a definite surprise for me," he said of getting the bad news on cut day. "I was coming in for the COVID testing and I end up getting called, I'm like thinking it was just a normal day, and then end up being waived. I was like, 'OK, that was an adjustment.' The big thing for me, having my brother there was pretty big, I can admit to that. We sat down, we talked for so long, just about ups and downs, pros and cons to what was going on in my situation. My brother kind of calmed me down to the point where it was like, I can't always try to understand a situation, understand the why, but just understand there's reason. That was a big thing that stuck with me because, I can't control everything. I can't sit here and try to control something that's out of our control. So the only thing I could do was just be where my feet are at, and that was at the moment, I got waived, and at the next time it was either I'm going to be on the practice squad or somewhere else, so whatever step came, I was ready to attack that."
When discussing the possibility of signing with another team's practice squad—Griffin said there were at least three offers—he said, "I just didn't see myself leaving."
The biggest factor, as has been the case throughout both of their lives—Shaquill turned down offers to more prestigious college programs because they wouldn't offer Shaquem a scholarship—was remaining teammates with his twin.
"Being here, worse comes to worse, I've always got my brother," he said "At the end of the day, when I've got him, everything's always good, no matter if I'm playing ball or not. So I was like, man, I'm not going to just leave, run away because I feel like the situation got hard and the situation is not going my way. If I want the situation to go my way, what can I change, what can I adjust, what do I need to do to better myself?"
Griffin, who had his left hand amputated when he was 4, has been told at nearly every level that he wasn't going to make it in football, including at UCF where he was a scout-team player and contemplated quitting before a coaching change helped him blossom into the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. So while getting waived and spending the start of his season on the practice squad wasn't ideal, he realized he's already been through worse and come out on top.
"It's not my first time," he said. "I had to remember and take a step back. It's not my first time—it happened in high school, it happened in college, it's happening now—it's not like I don't know what to do. So once I looked at it from that perspective, it was like, let's get rid of all the moping, let's get rid of all the whining and go back to work.
"Going through adversity in the league, it's nothing compared to what I went through in college. I'm ready for anything. There's no reason to mope, there's no reason to get upset, I'm in control of my own destiny. I'm in control of the way I feel about things, negative or positive."
Griffin impressed coaches and teammates, not just with the plays he made in the open field against Ezekiel Elliott, or with the pressure he put on Dak Prescott, but also with the way he has handled the start of this season.
"I think he played great," linebacker and defensive captain Bobby Wagner said. "I love his mentality, I love his mindset. Anybody in his situation could have easily gotten mad or frustrated about what happened, but he came in prepared, was preparing all week, and the moment he got his opportunity, he came in and made some really, really good plays, whether it was on Zeke, whether it's breaking up the ball over the middle, and just being really, really active. So I was really impressed with the way he handled everything and his preparation on coming in and being ready."
Said Carroll, "He did great this week. He was hauling butt all over the field. We played him a unique situation that he really handled well. He did a nice job rushing the passer in his other (opportunities) that he had. So I'm looking forward to him continuing to contribute. I was really fired up about his play.
"When the opportunity was available, he jumped at it and did a great job. I'm thrilled about that for him. He looked really good, and he was running all over the place, all over the field. If we can keep him available for those kinds of opportunities, he's going to continue to show like that… I'm really excited to see him play again this weekend."
Carroll added that Griffin will be on the field again in Miami: "He earned it."