When Marcus Burley left Monday night's game with a broken thumb, DeShawn Shead spent the rest of the game playing as Seattle's nickel cornerback. It was the third different position Shead has played in Seattle's secondary through four games this season, and he is also a key contributor on special teams.
Yet despite taking on yet another role, Shead wasn't even the most versatile player in a Seahawks uniform in a 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions, not with Will Tukuafu playing multiple positions, both on offense and defense, while also contributing on special teams.
When the Seahawks set their 53-man roster last month, plenty of people wondered why the Seahawks kept Tukuafu in addition to starting fullback Derrick Coleman, but it wasn't so much that the Seahawks kept a second fullback on the roster as it was that they kept a fullback/tight end/defensive tackle/special teamer.
With the Seahawks missing defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Demarcus Dobbs because of injury, Tukuafu, who primarily plays fullback, also played snaps at both defensive tackle positions. He also lined up at tight end, played on special teams, and even had a 16-yard return on a short kickoff.
"This is extremely unique that a guy can play on both sides of the football," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's playing tight end, fullback and defensive tackle, and he's instrumental in our special teams. Not many guys can do that. There's nobody in the league, I don't think, doing that, maybe there is, but it's a fantastic variety of skills that he brings to us."
As for that return, short, lofted kick many blockers in his position would have fair caught, Tukuafu said that wasn't even a consideration: "Oh no, I was returning that, bro. There was no thought of fair catching that."
Tukuafu also joked that, in addition to his role in all three phases of the game, he "filled a couple cups of Gatorade… Gotta make sure everyone's hydrated."
Shead, meanwhile, played his third position in four games while continuing to be among the team leaders in special teams playing time. Back in offseason workouts when Earl Thomas was sidelined as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Shead worked with the first-team defense at free safety. He then moved to strong safety with Kam Chancellor not in training camp, going back and forth with Dion Bailey for the top spot. In the season opener at St. Louis, Shead played left cornerback when the Seahawks were in their nickel defense, with Richard Sherman sliding inside to cover the slot receiver, then a week later he started against Green Bay at strong safety, and now he added nickel corner to his repertoire. With Steven Terrell dealing with a hip flexor injury, it's likely that Shead was the top backup at both safety spots, nickel corner and at least one outside cornerback position heading into Monday's game.
"Today was one of those days, I had no idea I'd be going in at nickel," Shead said. "Be prepared for anything. Because I know the defense so well, I was able to go out there and play the plays at nickel. I haven't played one snap at nickel, but that just shows the trust the Seahawks have in me to go in there. Marcus Burley went down, and I was the next man up."
Shead's game wasn't perfect—he was disappointed in his missed tackle on Golden Tate on Detroit's final drive—but it was another sign of how important versatility is for players who aren't regular starters.
"That worked out really well, he did a nice job for us," Carroll said. "D-Shead is a guy that can do whatever we need him to do. He's a very instrumental player for us in every phase that he contributes. He's really a cool player for us."
"The more you can do" is a phrase you'll hear frequently from Seahawks players and coaches. On Monday, Tukuafu and Shead showed they are capable of doing quite a bit.