From Doug Baldwin, who went undrafted in 2011, to Brandon Browner, who had to start in the Canadian Football League, the Seahawks are motivated by a history of slights.
RENTON — Team Chip still has a lot to prove, so don’t tell the Seahawks players that they’re three-point favorites to beat the Washington Redskins in Sunday’s first round of the playoffs.
The players on Team Chip still remember every slight they’ve felt, every coach, scout, opponent, even every sportswriter who ever doubted them. Team Chip is angry, and the players will stay angry for the rest of this season, for the rest of their careers.
“I like to have something on my plate for all the people who have doubted me all these times,” quarterback Russell Wilson said at his weekly news conference.
The chip on the Seahawks’ shoulders is a real thing. It isn’t something they’ve suddenly fabricated, not some theme they’ve settled on to drive them in this playoff run. It’s not a bumper sticker. It’s a nagging pain.
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Sure, players use the chip for motivation. And, yes, it’s a little bit of a reach to think these Seahawks aren’t getting much respect.
But the chip is deep-seated. It’s a part of many of these players’ DNAs. They’ve worked harder because of the chip. They’ve hit harder because of it. They’ve pushed through every obstacle and every disappointment because of the chip.
Receiver Doug Baldwin remembers the hurt he felt after he was ignored in the 2011 draft. Cornerback Richard Sherman says he’ll never get over the fact he was a fifth-round draft pick, that scouts said he was too big and not quick enough.
Ditto for safety Kam Chancellor. And former Canadian Football League cornerback Brandon Browner, who can easily recite the slights he’s received from so many NFL teams.
“It’s not a facade. That chip is a real thing,” Baldwin said. “The doubters, the people who question your ability, who don’t believe in you, all of that stuff is legitimate.”
Philadelphia gave up on defensive end Chris Clemons. Buffalo let go of running back Marshawn Lynch. Wilson was too short and dropped to the third round of last year’s draft. Even high picks like safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Golden Tate say they believe they are underdogs.
“I think when a man plays with something to prove, he plays at his best,” Thomas said in the Seahawks’ locker room before a recent practice. “We’ve been feeling this way about ourselves since Day One, and just because we might be favorites in this game, it doesn’t change the way we feel about ourselves.”
The players on Team Chip still believe — they’ll always believe — that they have something to prove.
“It’s a lack of respect, a lack of accolades, a lack of acknowledgment, a lot of getting what you deserve for a lot of us,” Sherman said. “It’s a bunch of people slighting you. For me, I think there’s a bias against Stanford players. That bias is part of the chip.”
Yes, but more and more people are jumping on the Seahawks’ bandwagon. They’re pulling hamstrings leaping on the wagon.
They are favorites this weekend. Isn’t that respect enough?
“That doesn’t change anything,” said Sherman. “You’ve still got a bunch of guys in this room who are still pissed off from whatever it is that they’re pissed off about.”
In fact, I get the feeling the Seahawks don’t want the bandwagon jumpers. They don’t need the national rooters-come-lately who suddenly believe in them. It’s too late. If they win six Super Bowls, these players will still remember the people who questioned them.
Their memories are elephantine. Their disappointments are eternal.
“I’ll have this chip for the rest of my life,” Baldwin said. “That pain I felt when I wasn’t drafted is embedded in me. My entire life I grew up wanting to hear my name called on draft day. I put my whole life into football and on the third day of the draft, when my name didn’t get called, it was devastating.
“When 32 teams, a whole bunch of executives, are saying that you’re not good enough to play in the NFL, there is some doubt because these guys are supposed to be experts. So every day when I wake up, I’m not just trying to prove them wrong, it’s to prove myself right, that I’m capable of doing this at a high level.”
These are players from all different kinds of backgrounds with all different varieties of chips. And somehow, in these past two months, all the chips have come together on Sundays.
“Every single player has something to prove, and they want to prove it every game,” Sherman said. “Every play they make is them proving somebody wrong. All of us doing it, that’s how the chip manifests itself on Sundays.”
This Sunday, every Sunday, as long as there are games to play, these Seahawks will carry a chip. It’s the intangible secret to Team Chip’s success.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org