Preventing an NFC West rival from capturing a division crown, the Seahawks wrapped up the 2021 season with a thrilling 38-30 upset against the Cardinals. But as has happened far too often at State Farm Stadium over the years, the victory came at a cost with a star player suffering a severe injury.
Speaking with reporters following the game, coach Pete Carroll confirmed Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs fractured his right fibula and dislocated his ankle while trying to tackle running back Eno Benjamin midway at the 9:22 mark in the fourth quarter. With players from both teams huddled around him on a knee and visibly distraught, trainers rushed out to the field and placed an air cast on the injured leg.
Departing on a cart, an emotional Diggs shed tears as he left the field. Many of his teammates, including cornerback D.J. Reed, reacted in similar fashion after seeing their comrade suffer a gruesome lower leg injury.
"Just a heartbreaker," Carroll somberly said. "Everybody loves this guy so much because of who he is. He is such an embedded leader, character, the toughness, all of the stuff that he stands for. The guys just love this guy. It crushed everybody, and it was ignored in the way that they finished. They finished for him. My heart is broken for him getting hurt like that."
Per Carroll, receiver Tyler Lockett and others will stay with him in Arizona overnight as he undergoes surgery. Diggs himself posted on Twitter after the game thanking fans and teammates for their support.
Moments away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, the timing of the unfortunate injury couldn't have been worse for Diggs, who may lose money from the Seahawks or another team on the market as a result of the injury.
As one of the many players who spoke with Diggs while he was down on the field and being placed on the cart, quarterback Russell Wilson said it was gut-wrenching watching a teammate and leader of his caliber go down with such a significant injury, particularly given the aforementioned unfortunate circumstances.
"Just to see the pain and the hurt is heavy because I know he’s played at such a high level all year. He’s been the MVP of our season just on how he’s played," Wilson remarked. "I don’t think anyone has played any better across the league at that position. I know he’s a guy that deserves to get paid the right way. He’s a guy that deserves to get all the accolades."
If there's a silver lining, Diggs didn't suffer any ligament damage, which should help hasten his recovery process. While a long road back awaits following surgery, Carroll expects he will be ready to go for the 2022 season.
"He’ll be back, he’ll make it back," Carroll said. "There’s some months in here but he’ll get back for the season next year. That’s the positive side."
Now the question is - will Diggs return to the field next summer as a member of the Seahawks or with another team?
After reporting on time in July, Diggs decided to execute a hold-in towards the tail end of training camp. During that time, he took out an insurance policy to guard against injury and agreed to terms with the Seahawks on a restructured contract that included per-game roster bonuses being converted to salary and his $5.05 million base salary being converted into a signing bonus.
Ultimately, Seattle would love to bring back Diggs, who led the team with five interceptions and earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection. But after handing fellow safety Jamal Adams a $70 million extension in August, the team may have a tough time allocating financial resources for another lucrative multi-year contract at the position.
Time will tell if the Seahawks are willing or able to meet Diggs' contract demands on a long-term deal. Of course, interest from other teams as well as his status recovering from his injury will play key roles in how his market formalizes come March.
After seeing how Diggs carried himself in a professional manner and remained committed to his team during the final year of his current contract, Wilson has no doubt the safety will return better than ever and hopes to see him back in a Seattle uniform with the contract he's rightfully earned.
"I think that he brought it every day, and I know that this one hurts for him, but he will be back. I think he will be back better than ever. If anyone will be back, it will be him. He will kick butt in recovery. His faith is super strong, and he’s got great guys around him, great people and family and all that. I’m just praying for him, and I know he’ll be better than he was ever before.”