'Workers Work': Thanks to Preparation, Shaquem Griffin Thriving in Return to Seahawks
RENTON, WA - As he had done every day for the past month during an unprecedented training camp, Shaquem Griffin arrived at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex on September 5 prepared to take a COVID-19 test and begin preparation for the Seahawks season opener in Atlanta.
But after Griffin reported to be swabbed, he received the call no NFL player wants to receive on cut down day. Despite a strong showing in camp, the third-year linebacker was surprised to find out he was being waived by Seattle.
After clearing the waiver wire, Griffin admitted several teams, including the Texans, reached out to his agent about signing the former All-American. But his twin brother Shaquill Griffin still under contract and slated to start for the Seahawks, he didn't have any interest in playing elsewhere and signed to the practice squad.
"I think a big thing for me was - having my brother there was pretty big," Griffin told reporters on Wednesday. "I can admit to that. We sat down, we talked for so long just about ups and downs, pros and cons to what was going on in the situation. My brother kinda calmed me down to the point where it was like I can't always understand the situation, understand the why, but understand there's a reason."
As coach Pete Carroll stated on Monday, the presence of first-round pick Jordyn Brooks played the biggest role in Griffin not making the 53-man roster. At the time, as much as the organization loved the player, there simply wasn't room to keep him at the team's deepest position group.
While Griffin was initially disappointed as expected, especially considering how well he played at the end of the 2019 season as a situational rusher, he didn't dwell on the situation long. Having overcome tremendous adversity throughout his life to become the first one-handed player drafted in NFL history, he wasn't going to run away when things started to get hard, determined to instead fight his way back onto Seattle's roster and stay in the Pacific Northwest with his brother.
“Worst come to worst, I’ve always got my brother. At the end of the day, when I’ve got him, everything is always good, whether I’m playing ball or not,” Griffin smiled. "So it's like 'if I want the situation to change, what can I adjust? What can I do to better myself?'"
Rather than mope and feel sorry for himself, Griffin attacked his play book, ensuring he knew every formation and every play call inside and out at multiple positions. When his time came to play again, regardless of what the Seahawks asked him to do, he would be ready to roll.
With Bruce Irvin suffering a torn ACL and Rasheem Green landing on injured reserve with a neck injury, Griffin's chance to shine came quickly. Desperate for pass rushing help as well as linebacker depth, Seattle elevated him from the practice squad one day prior to Sunday's matchup versus Dallas and he suited up for the first time this season.
Taking full advantage of his opportunity, Griffin's emphasis on preparation was evident on the field. Showing off his sub-4.40 speed on 17 defensive snaps, he flew all over the field as both an edge rusher and quarterback spy while producing a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and a pass defensed on the final defensive drive as the Seahawks held on for a thrilling 38-31 victory.
"For me, it was all a mindset," Griffin said. "Once you go through something like that, you have a choice to make and I think for me, I didn't want to make the choice to sell myself short. I knew the plays, I knew what was going on, I knew the scheme, so the whole thing was to make sure I stayed abreast on it and make sure I stay ready in case something was to happen. I didn't know the exact role that was going to happen come the game, but I just want to be ready for everything."
When asked about his disruptive performance, Carroll gushed, eventually slipping up and telling reporters Griffin would be dressing once again against the Dolphins this upcoming weekend.
“He was hauling butt all over the field,” Carroll said. “We played him in a unique situation that he really handled well. He did a nice job rushing the passer and his other ops that he had, so I’m looking forward to him to continuing to contribute. I was really fired up about his play.”
Per league rules, Griffin reverted back to Seattle's practice squad on Monday, but the team promptly used one of their two protective slots on him to ensure no other team would attempt to sign him this week. With an open spot still available, there's a good chance he will join safety Ryan Neal on the 53-man roster before traveling Sunday to play in Miami.
Though it's on the opposite end of the spectrum, just as he did after being cut several weeks ago, Griffin isn't putting too much stock in his success against the Cowboys. Having dealt with turmoil at the high school and college level, particularly with coach George O'Leary, he has a unique perspective for handling the highs and lows of being a professional athlete.
Sporting a big smile as always and happy to still be a Seahawk, Griffin is playing his cards one week at a time and working his tail off behind the scenes with hopes he will stick around and make an impact for his team the rest of this season and beyond.
"Everything can't be perfect and everything can't always go your way... Let's get rid of all the moping, let's get rid of the whining and stuff and come back to work. That's what you do. Workers work and they don't care who does it, it just has to be done, so that's what I came to do."