It will feel a little weird, Quandre Diggs admits, to walk on to the Ford Field turf as a visitor.
But when the Seahawks face the Lions Sunday in what will be the Pro Bowl safety's first game in Detroit since he was traded to Seattle in 2019, it will also be a special moment for Diggs, who spent his first four and a half seasons as a member of the Lions secondary.
Things may not have ended on the greatest of terms—teams don't trade away team captains a year after signing them to a three-year contract extension if everything is going great—but Diggs hold no ill will towards the organization that drafted him in 2015, especially considering the turnover in Detroit's front office and coaching staff since he was there.
"It's the first time going back since the trade," Diggs said. "It's always a special place for me. Even watching on film, seeing the turf and seeing the fans in the stadium, it brings back memories, of course. Detroit is what made me into who I am now, so I'm forever grateful for my opportunity. I'll be great to see some good friends, hopefully I can see my training staff that was out there, see the equipment guys and all that. It'll be different walking down that tunnel as a visitor, but I'm here now, I'm blessed. I think it'll be super, super dope. But I say all that to say, it's going to be a battle on Sunday. They know that; we know that."
Since joining the Seahawks, Diggs has been one of the best and most consistent performers on Seattle's defense, earning Pro-Bowl honors in each of his two full seasons in Seattle, and earning a new contract this offseason that made him one of the league's highest-paid safeties. Diggs has piled up 13 interceptions, 20 passes defensed and 171 tackles in 41 games since joining the Seahawks, and he is the only player in the NFL to have at least three interceptions in each of the past five seasons. Along with Denver's Justin Simmons, Diggs is one of only two safeties in the league to record at least five interceptions in each of the past two seasons.
In other words, Diggs has been everything the Seahawks could have asked for when they made that trade, if not more.
"It was really his aggressiveness that singled him out," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He has always been such a tremendous accelerator to contact that it just jumps off the film at you. We had heard also about his character and his role in their team, and we thought that was a pretty exciting opportunity in that regard too. And we find out it was maybe understated, in that he is a fantastic leader and force with our guys.
Diggs has always been a leader on the field and in Seattle's locker room, no surprise given he was a captain when Detroit traded him, and now as one of Seattle's two defensive captains along with Al Woods, those opportunities for leadership have shown up even more even if he has not had to change who he is.
"He has more opportunity, but he's been exactly the same guy," Carroll said. "He's had leadership effect since he's been here. Guy have looked up to him—some guys just have a way about him, and he's got it. It's infectious and it's obvious. But he has had a little more opportunity to take over the direction of some stuff."
And right now, the leadership opportunity facing Diggs and Woods is to help get a defense back on track after inconsistent play, particularly against the run, that contributed to last week's loss to Atlanta. For the Seahawks to make the defensive turnaround they're expecting, Diggs knows he'll have to do his part on the field, and also as a leader who can mix in some blunt truths along with his usual sarcastic banter.
"I'm cracking jokes all the time," he said. "I keep it light 95 percent of the time, the 5 percent I go off—I mean come on, it is a business, so at the end of the day you've got to do what you do. But I'm pretty chill. I'm a vet. I'm not too old. I keep it young and I just say what I've got to say, and my teammates respect that. I don't say a lot, I really don't, as far as rah-rah speeches. You guy sese me pregame, I'm just kind of secluded to myself, I'm not doing much. I didn't really do the rah-rah stuff, I'm more, get a point across and then I keep it going. I feel like I'm more of a helper with trying to get you doing assessments right and things like that instead of being a rah-rah guy."
Getting the defense back on track would be a priority for Diggs and his teammates notmatter the opponent on Sunday, but this weekend's trip will be a special one nonetheless for Diggs, because Detroit is the city that helped shape him as a player and a young man.
"I spent my first four and a half years in the league in Detroit," Diggs said. "Detroit went and took a shot on the sixth-round guy from Texas. I might have not been me, I might not be who I am today. So I'm blessed. The Ford family, Jim Caldwell and that coaching staff, that's what made me. Before I was here with you guys, I was in Detroit making a name for myself."
The Seahawks and Lions face off on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 at Ford Field. Kickoff is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Lions.