Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald sat at his locker alone. He scrolled through his phone as most of his teammates answered questions after Seattle’s win in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
The moment was fitting for two reasons. First, McDonald has gone about his business in relative anonymity this season. And second, he was cut before the start of the season only to be brought back by the Seahawks two weeks later in a move that has quietly paid off.
Now, in the winner’s locker room, McDonald had a chance to reflect on his journey, from out of work to Super Bowl bound. What goes through someone’s mind when that happens?
“Romans 8:28,” McDonald said. “That’s what came to my mind. I’ll take the extra step to read it for you.”
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He pulled out his iPhone and flipped through his Bible on it.
“It says: And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”
McDonald looked up from his phone.
“Bad things happen every day, more serious things than getting cut,” he said. “People die. People get robbed. You lose loved ones. But all things work for the good of those who love the Lord. That was the thing that was on my mind.”
McDonald is not a household name. On a defense filled with productive players — Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor in the secondary alone — McDonald is neither a starter nor a star.
But McDonald is an important piece of Seattle’s defense. He provided depth while two rookie defensive tackles — third-round draft pick Jordan Hill and fifth-round pick Jesse Williams — were sidelined with injuries. And he has become Seattle’s best pass-rushing defensive tackle.
The Seahawks tinkered with multiple pass-rushing combinations on third down, most involving speedsters.
But in the second half of the season, the Seahawks settled on using McDonald at defensive tackle on third down because he had a knack for collapsing the pocket around the quarterback.
He is third on Seattle with 5.5 sacks. He hadn’t recorded a sack in any of his previous three seasons, two with the Seahawks and his rookie year with Cincinnati.
“He’s had a hell of a year,” defensive end Chris Clemons said. “I mean, he had more quarterback sacks than I did this year. I’m proud of him. He’s one of those guys who never stops. And you’ve got to love him for that.”
The move to cut McDonald was financial. By cutting him and then re-signing him after week one, the Seahawks saved about $600,000.
“After that happened, I talked with (general manager) John (Schneider) and he said he was going to bring him right back,” Clemons said. “When he got back, I had a conversation with Clint and I told him, ‘This is the time where you don’t hold anything back. Right now you’re playing for your life.’ He came out and took advantage of it.”
McDonald said he played with more of an edge than he had earlier in his career. This has also been his most productive season as a pro.
“It made me really realize you only have one chance at this thing — at football and at life,” McDonald said. “You only have one chance, so make it the best one.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org