Shaquem Griffin, Seattle’s second-year linebacker, is on the roster bubble because of the Seahawks’ strength at his position, but he’s not stressing about it.
RENTON, Wash. — Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin says he isn’t one to stress out over things he can’t control. So while hundreds of other players across the NFL wait nervously by their cell phones on Saturday hoping to survive cut-down day with a spot on their team’s 53-man roster, Griffin plans to spend it the same way he did a year ago.
“Last year on cut-down day I just remember making pancakes at home with my brother,” said Griffin, whose twin brother Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback on the Seahawks. “I didn’t even come in that day. It was just us just hanging out, having family in town and stuff. It’s going to be more of the same thing.”
Shaquem Griffin always seemed like a safe bet to make the as a rookie last year, especially after he led all players with 15 tackles during a stellar debut in the preseason opener. There wasn’t any doubt by the time K.J. Wright suffered a knee injury two weeks later that would force Griffin into the starting lineup for the regular-season opener.
Cut-down day may not be as carefree for Griffin this year now that he seems to be squarely on the roster bubble, fighting for a spot in what may be Seattle’s strongest position group from top to bottom.
Behind Bobby Wagner, Mychal Kendricks and Wright — who form perhaps the league’s best trio of starting linebackers — the Seahawks spent 2019 draft picks on Cody Barton (third round) and Ben Burr-Kirven (fifth). Barton has already looked like a starting-caliber player while another backup linebacker, Austin Calitro, was the player Wright singled out as having impressed him more during training camp than anyone regardless of position.
It didn’t help Griffin that he missed two preseason games with a knee bruise.
“It’s tough,” he said of missing time while trying to earn a roster spot. “But I think just speaking with everybody, having the vets and stuff and having them guys in my corner, it happens. You can’t control it. You play ball, you give 100 percent and sometimes you get banged up in the midst of it. And I feel like having them guys in my corner pushing me to come back was a good thing because it was a battle to come back. It’s always a battle when you’re coming back from an injury, and I’m just glad I was able to make it back before the last week, just to be a part of something.”
Griffin became the subject of international attention last year when the Seahawks chose him in the fifth round, which made him the first player with one hand to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era. Reuniting in Seattle with twin brother Shaquill made the story so sought-after that the Griffin family was fielding interview requests from Italy and China.
“I think both the brothers really took it to heart,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They know that they had gone through a tremendous amount last year, and it was a distraction for them and they had to live with it. It remains such a great story and it was so hot for so long. As well as they apply themselves and tried to deal with it, it was more than anyone else had in that regard. So, both guys together, they dieted great, they worked out great, they came back the fastest we have ever seen them, the most fit, leanest — and you could tell. You only get that through hard work. I think they have been able to figure it out and manage and navigate their way through the attention … I know they feel much better about their preparation and going at it. Other than [Shaquem] missing a week or so here, they’ve both had really good camps.”
But the roster math may not add up in his favor.
The Seahawks tend to keep between five and seven linebackers on their initial 53-man roster. Seven seems unlikely this year for a couple reasons. Ezekiel Ansah and L.J. Collier are both iffy for Week 1, which could compel general manager John Schneider and Carroll to carry 10 defensive linemen into the opener as opposed to nine. They could get away with only keeping five or six true linebackers knowing that fullback Nick Bellore played the position earlier in his career and so has defensive end Jacob Martin. Barkevious Mingo would be another de facto backup linebacker if he and his $5.2 million cap charge make the team.
Barton is seemingly the only lock beyond the starters, which means there may just be one or two spots up for grabs between Griffin, Calitro and Burr-Kirven.
The anxiety of cut-down day can be enough to kill an appetite, but Griffin plans to start it off with another stack of pancakes.
“It’s just like, don’t worry about what’s going to happen; just worry about where you’re going to end up and what you can do after that and whatever opportunities you get when it comes to cut-down day, make sure you take full advantage of it,” Griffin said. “I feel like I’m a person who doesn’t stress about it, a person who just gives everything they got and lets everything control itself. That’s the only thing you can do, is control what you can.”