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Appreciating Nick Bellore, Seahawks Unheralded Special Teams Star

Despite limited usage as a fullback on offense for Seattle, Bellore has finally started to receive long-deserved recognition for his stellar special teams play and if the season ended today, he would make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year career.

In the closing moments of a 37-27 win over the 49ers earlier this month, the Seahawks sent their offense onto the field with a unique personnel grouping, subbing in all five tight ends dressed for the game on the field at the same time.

The rationale behind the decision? According to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, tight end coach Pat McPherson was in his ear late in the game hoping to see all five players on the field together. If Seattle got the football back, Schottenheimer told McPherson he would do it if he informed him where every tight end would line up.

With a chance to melt away the clock in "victory" formation in the closing minutes, Schottenheimer proved to be a man of his word, subbing in Greg Olsen, Jacob Hollister, Will Dissly, Luke Willson, and Colby Parkinson. But while it created quite the photo opportunity, not everyone was pleased with his decision.

"Nick Bellore has not talked to me all week," Schottenheimer smiled. "I mean, it's been kind of bad because that's normally one of his main plays, so he literally he was screaming at [running back coach] Chad Morton, 'tell Schotty don't come down, stay up in the damn box' because this is unbelievable. He's taking away my play time."

While Schottenheimer obviously was joking and there's no legitimate bad blood between the coach and player, nobody could blame Bellore if he actually felt a bit slighted after being replaced in such a situation.

Like most fullbacks in today's NFL, Bellore's offensive snaps are already few and far between, as he's played 17 total in 10 games for the Seahawks. He's touched the football a grand total of two times - one catch for nine yards and one carry for five yards - with both happening against the 49ers that Sunday.

Though Bellore would love to have more opportunities on offense - Schottenheimer says the player constantly prods him for more playing time in what he deemed a "love/hate" relationship in jest - his statistics don't come close to assessing the versatile veteran's overall value to Seattle.

"He's really a terrific football player and he can do all those things," Schottenheimer told reporters on Friday. "He can play tight end for us, he can play single back for us, he's done some protection stuff for us."

Breaking into the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan in 2011, Bellore cut his teeth as a core special teams player, playing over 314 special teams snaps in each of his first five seasons. When injuries struck for the 49ers in 2016, he jumped into the starting lineup as a linebacker for the 49ers, registering career-highs in tackles (83) and passes defensed (5).

After two seasons in San Francisco, Bellore signed a free agent deal with Detroit and re-invented himself again, moving to the offensive side of the football. Along with playing 106 snaps at linebacker and remaining a key special teams player, he received 131 snaps at fullback during two seasons with the Lions.

Since signing a two-year deal with the Seahawks prior to the 2019 season, Bellore has been cut twice coming out of training camp. But the organization never intended for him to not be on the roster and once his salary became non-guaranteed, the team quickly re-signed him on both occasions. In total, he's played just 46 offensive snaps in 24 games during that time.

But for those who questioned why Seattle retained Bellore despite rarely using him offensively, the 31-year old has silenced many of those critics with his sensational special teams contributions this season. Through Week 11, he ranks second in the NFL with 11 special teams tackles, has recovered a fumble on the kickoff coverage team, and as another sign fans have finally acknowledged his talents in an often overlooked role, he's currently leading all NFC special teams players for Pro Bowl votes.

"He's such a luxury to have because you know he's going to be prepared, you know he's going to know what to do," Schottenheimer remarked. "And so for people to be taking notice of that, how hard he works, the way he impacts the game on special teams, the way he actually impacts the game for us when he's out there on some of those third down situations, it's very cool to see the rest of the league taking notice of that. I'm very happy for him."

With six regular season games left to play, Bellore will continue to be a major factor for the Seahawks on special teams as the team pursues an NFC West title and potentially a top seed for the playoffs. Assuming his play doesn't drop off and he stays healthy, even though the actual game won't be played this year due to the pandemic, all signs are pointing towards him notching his first Pro Bowl selection.

As for the "controversial" decision to sub him out in favor of a quintet of tight ends in Seattle's victory formation? Schottenheimer says Bellore certainly hasn't forgotten or forgiven and you can bet the player will continue to be in his coach's ear seeking out more chances on offense.

"He keeps me happy, keeps it loose, keeps it fun. He knows why he's here. He's here to help us win games, whatever that means," Schottenheimer smiled. "But the five tight ends, I think that bothered him pretty much."