RENTON, WA - In terms of talent and athletic traits, DK Metcalf may be the most unique player in the NFL. Built with a towering 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame and boasting elite track speed and leaping ability, few players, if any, boast a similar combination of size and physical tools. A strong argument can be made he's one out of one compared to his peers.
But while Metcalf still has put up quality numbers in his third NFL season with 42 receptions for 606 yards and eight touchdowns for the Seahawks, the 23-year old receiver hasn't been on his best behavior between the lines and has hurt his team in the process. His inability to keep his cool reached a boiling point in Sunday's loss in Green Bay when officials penalized him and ultimately ejected him late in the fourth quarter for striking two Packers in the helmet.
In his post-game press conference, Metcalf explained his actions by simply saying, "I'm tired of losing."
As Metcalf left the field after being disqualified, star linebacker Bobby Wagner tried to speak with the young wideout and as seen on camera, he didn't seem too interested in hearing what the veteran had to say to him. Then, he tried to sneak back into the game, only to be caught by officials entering the huddle and escorted back to the sideline.
While a frustrated Metcalf may not have wanted to hear what Wagner had to say to him at the time with the Seahawks about to drop to 3-6 on the season with a 17-0 loss at Lambeau Field, he confirmed to reporters on Thursday that he did talk to the team captain after the game.
“I just was talking to him, understanding that this moment is bigger than it needed to be," Wagner said on Wednesday. "Just to lock back in, that’s really all it is. I’ve been around a lot of passionate people like [Richard Sherman] and Kam [Chancellor], sometimes the camera caught it and sometimes it didn’t. This is a passionate game, a game played with a lot of emotions. Sometimes you need a person to kind of bring you back in.”
Unfortunately for Seattle, this wasn't the first time Metcalf has been flagged by officials or fined by the league for post-snap extracurriculars. In the season opener, he received a flag for taunting after tight end Gerald Everett scored a nine-yard touchdown in Indianapolis. Then in Week 7 versus New Orleans, he got mixed up with cornerback Marshon Lattimore multiple times during the game, and though he was never penalized for the altercations, the league slapped him with a $6,949 fine.
One week later against Jacksonville, Metcalf again was flagged for taunting after jumping onto the goalpost following his second touchdown reception of the game. He acknowledged after the game he didn't know he would be penalized for such a celebration and once again fined $6,949 by the league office.
Even off the field, Metcalf's emotions have gotten the best of him on social media. After a Week 6 loss to the Steelers, he engaged in a Twitter spar with Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe revolving around a play in which the receiver didn't go out of bounds and fumbled late in regulation. The Seahawks recovered the fumble and managed to make a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime despite the miscue.
On multiple occasions earlier this year, coach Pete Carroll has spoken with Metcalf following what the receiver cited as "outbursts" and did so again while flying home after Sunday's loss.
“We talked last night on the plane some and then talked again today. You are asking how much, well, we are on the topic," Carroll said on Monday. "The last thing he wants is for this to continue. He’s been really good for five or six weeks now, he’s just been playing ball and digging in. He wants to make sure that’s what his work stands for, so I’m anxious to see him come back out this week and get going.
Metcalf acknowledged Carroll has met with him to talk about these situations three times this year and in each case, the "conversation has always gotten better." But to this point, those discussions haven't prevented the All-Pro receiver from finding himself in similar predicaments after jawing with opponents in recent weeks.
“I’m a passionate player and I’m never going to back down from anything," Metcalf said of his talks with Carroll. "He understands that but at the same time, I’m starting to become a leader on this team. I have to grow up and continue to get better. I know that I’m still a work in progress. I don’t like to use my age as an excuse, but sometimes I forget that I’m 23 years old. I have to continue to grow each day and the mistakes are going to get fixed.”
For the Seahawks to crawl out of the deep hole they have entrenched themselves in after nine games, they need Metcalf to play at his very best. When his head is on straight and he's on his A-game, he's one of the toughest assignments to cover in the entire NFL and a top-five caliber receiver who creates matchup nightmares each week. He's a rare difference maker who on his own accord can elevate Seattle's offense with his big play capabilities.
But despite his undeniable talent, Metcalf has drawn far too much attention for the wrong reasons this year. He needs to mature to fully maximize on his rare skills and help his team win games. Under the microscope as one of the most recognizable star receivers in the league based on his production as well as his on-field shenanigans, he knows he must do a better job of avoiding confrontations and controlling his emotions between the lines.
“I wouldn’t say there is a fine line, but I was doing it last year with Stephon Gilmore and Jalen Ramsey, so I’ve been doing it, but I’m just under a tighter microscope right now. Everybody is watching me to see what I do and how I would react. I’m taking that into account every time I’m going into a game or preparing for a week where I’m being looked at. It’s just another challenge that I have to overcome.”