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Seahawks Mailbag: Vaccine Requirement, Cornerback Changes & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers.

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The Seahawks kick off the regular season this week with a trip to Indianapolis, but before we fully turn our attention to game week, it's time to open up the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.

Ella Kehoe from Bellevue asked, two weeks ago, "Why are you not requiring masks or vaccines?"

A: Ella, I couldn't answer your question at the time because things were still being sorted out both at the team and government level, but I'm happy to share here, in case anyone missed it, that the Seahawks, along with other professional and college teams in the state, will require proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours in order to attend games this season. Fans will also be required to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, except when actively eating or drinking.

You can find all the details here, but this move will help keep gameday as safe as possible while protecting those who can't get vaccinated, particularly children not yet old enough to receive the vaccine.

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Steve Nally from Meridian, Idaho asks, "I've been a Hawks fan as long as I can remember. I'm a veteran and will not support any entity that divides the country and disrespects our anthem. There's only one for all of us… Be Americans for all America."

A: First off, let me offer a sincere thank you for your service, Steve. But on this topic, I fear you and I aren't going to see eye to eye. Just as I and anyone else who hasn't served our country can't fully understand your experience, it's important to realize that white people—and let's be clear here, the vast majority of people who have a problem with players protesting during the anthem are white—don't understand the experiences of Black people in a country with a long and still ongoing problem with racism.

When you say be Americans for all America, and there's only one for all of us, that discounts the fact that America has not historically been, nor is it now, the same for Black people as it is for you and me. Dating back to the 17th century when enslaved people were brought to America against their will, and continuing on through policies like convict leasing, which kept slavery alive in practice if not in name, through Jim Crow laws that made segregation legal well into the 20th century, through redlining, through inequalities in education and medical care and the legal system, and through the recent surge in white nationalism, there has never been one America for all Americans, so it's not realistic to assume that the anthem and the flag will mean the same thing to every person, and especially every Black person.

Going back to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in 2016, and continuing through last season when players reacted to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, the issue at hand when it came to player protests was police violence against Black people. That's simply not something white people have had to endure or be fearful of in the way Black people have, so until our country can fix its massive, centuries-old problem with racism, let's go ahead and hold off on judging those who are protesting it.

@StefanWulf0asks, "What do you think about the cornerback situation?"

A: Cornerback was one of the most intriguing positions on the roster heading into Seahawks camp, and that is definitely still the case heading into Week 1. A month ago, I and just about anyone else covering the team would have told you Ahkello Witherspoon was a likely starter, but instead the Seahawks traded him to Pittsburgh last week. D.J. Reed, who was competing at right cornerback with Tre Flowers, was moved to the left side with Flowers appearing to have won that job, and while it would seem most likely those two will start this week, there's a good shot the competition will continue in the regular season with the Seahawks adding multiple players at that position, including Sidney Jones IV, Blessuan Austin, John Reid, who promoted off of the practice squad Tuesday, and Nigel Warrior, who was placed on injured reserve. Rookie Tre Brown, who also just went on injured reserve, was also in the mix at left cornerback before his injury, so he'll be one to watch when he returns.

@MakellRose asks, "Who is the most exciting player that's not Russell Wilson to watch this season?"

A: On offense I'd point to DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who each seem capable of doing something spectacular every time Russell Wilson drops back to pass, as well as Chris Carson, who brings a very entertaining running style that combines physicality with rare athleticism.

On defense the most obvious answer is Jamal Adams, who brings energy and big-play ability, but also don't let Bobby Wagner's consistent excellence lull you to sleep. No, great middle linebacker play isn't always as flashy as what a safety can do in space, but if you understand defense even a little bit, what Wagner does every week is very exciting in its sustained greatness. As for a potential breakthroughs, if you will, I'd go with rookie Dee Eskridge, who looks like a big play waiting to happen every time he gets the ball in his hands, and on defense with Marquise Blair and Jordyn Brooks. Blair was one of the biggest playmakers in camp last year before his ACL injury, and if he's back to that level and healthy in 2021, he has a chance to do big things, while Brooks has the potential for a breakout season as an every-down player after showing a lot of promise in a part-time role as a rookie.

@ValarieBunn asks, "Are the Seahawks concerned about playing teams with low vaccination rates?"

A: While it's not ideal, I'd imagine the Seahawks aren't spending too much time worrying about their opponents' vaccination rates for a couple of reasons. For starters, all but two players on Seattle's roster are vaccinated, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and while breakthrough cases are possible, the odds of contracting COVID-19 when vaccinated are far lower than when unvaccinated. Secondly, the NFL and other pro sports leagues had a lot of data about the spread of the virus that they compiled last year, and there seems to be little if any evidence of on-field transmission from one player to another.

Ideally every team will get fully vaccinated or close to it, but until then it seems like the biggest risk posed by teams with low vaccination rates will be to those teams' own players, not opponents.

John Kennish from Anchorage, and several others, asked, "Why didn't K.J. Wright get re-signed?"

And while it's completely understandable why fans were upset to see Wright go—he wasn't just a great player, but also locker-room leader and a person who gave back in the community often—there are also football reasons that help explain the decision. Most notably the Seahawks saw a lot of good things out of first-round pick Jordyn Brooks and they want to get him on the field as an every-down player. Last year he eventually became the starter at weakside linebacker, but came off the field in nickel situations, with Wright moving from the strongside to the weakside spot. To make Brooks an every-down player with Wright still here, that would mean asking Wright to play maybe 30 percent of the defensive snaps, sometimes fewer, depending on matchups, and that type of reduced role is not something teams necessarily want to ask a franchise legend to do, not if he can still be an every-down player for another team. The Seahawks also are very high on the potential of 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor, who will play a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role similar to the one held by Bruce Irvin in his time here, so if the Seahawks want to use the trio of Brooks, Taylor and Bobby Wagner, that doesn't leave room for Wright.

Photos from Seahawks practice on Monday, September 6 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.

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