GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was almost exactly a year ago Sunday that tight end Will Dissly’s promising rookie season came to a sudden end when he tore his patellar tendon in Week 4 in a game at State Farm Stadium.
In a bit of scheduling coincidence, the almost one-year anniversary brought him back to the same field. That made it a difficult memory to shake as he warmed up before the Seattle Seahawks’ 27-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
That memory was finally shaken when Dissly recreated the play that injured him. He ran the same flat route on the same part of the field where he went down, caught a throw from Russell Wilson, and then turned up the field and ran.
“I said, ‘Hey, my knee works,'” Dissly recalled postgame. “So from that point on, I put it behind me, and I was ready to go play a game.”
You would never know that Dissly had any sort of physical or mental hurdle to overcome based on his hot start to the season. It continued Sunday, with seven catches on eight targets — both career highs — for 57 yards and another touchdown, his fourth of the season.
That gives him six touchdowns in his first eight career games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that ties Dissly with three others — Heath Miller, Eric Green and Raymond Chester — for the most by a tight end in his first eight games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
That’s not bad for someone who was widely considered a blocking specialist coming out of Washington last year. The Seahawks valued that skill in their run-heavy offense and considered Dissly a player they had to have. They chose him in the fourth round, earlier than some projections had him. Some in the UW program were surprised that the Seahawks were so high on Dissly, given his receiving numbers with the Huskies: 25 catches for three touchdowns, all in his final two seasons after converting from the defensive line.
Dissly now looks like the Seahawks’ latest draft steal and the type of complete tight end they once had in Zach Miller.
“I love the way he’s playing,” Pete Carroll said. “He and Russ are hooking up at crucial times, tough catches. He’s gotten hammered a few times on tackles and bounced right back up. He’s a tremendous Seahawk. He just does everything so beautifully. It’s great to have him.”
Wilson was aware of the significance of Sunday’s game to Dissly and said it was on his mind before the team left its hotel and headed to State Farm Stadium. But the two didn’t speak about their moment in warm-ups. They apparently didn’t have to.
“We knew,” Wilson said. “I’m pretty connected with him. He’s a good guy. We go to Bible study together, we talk, we’re connected pretty good, and I just really admire him. So we went over there, I kind of looked at him. He knew. It was just kind of one of those looks. When you’re around a teammate for a while, a friend, you kind of know.”
Wilson revealed that Dissly was recently chosen as the team’s recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
“He’s earned everything,” Wilson said.
Dissly was a spectator during the offseason program, and he began practicing at the start of training camp. Simply making it back when he did was an accomplishment, given how difficult of a time some players have trying to return from a torn patellar tendon. Jimmy Graham suffered the same injury in November 2015 and also made it back for the start of the following season.
“You don’t know that one because it’s a big, big injury in the end,” Carroll said. “We had hoped that he would make it back by the season. That’s what we were shooting for. He made it back before that, but he’s better right now than he’s ever been. I think because of the whole process of going through and making sure he was ready to play and all that. They did a perfect job.”
Dissly is now the clear-cut No. 1 option at the position, with Luke Willson behind him. You wouldn’t have expected that a year ago.
“Will has never stopped rehabbing,” Carroll said. “He’s in the weight room — I go in there every day before I go to practice, and he’s in there every day, and he’s working on the same stuff he needs to work on so that he can secure his recovery. He’s done a perfect job of returning, but better than that, he’s not just satisfied with that. He’s working to be better. He’s a great Seahawk.”