A year ago at this time, the Seahawks defensive tackle could only stand and watch, sidelined by the first serious injury of his career.
RENTON — It was a play, Brandon Mebane said with a laugh, that simply showed off his newly sculpted midsection.
“But you probably can’t see that like you can on the (defensive) ends,’’ Mebane said.
Coach Pete Carroll, though, thought it spoke more loudly to a lot of other things about the surging Seahawks.
Mebane and fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin chased down Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson 22 yards downfield following a screen pass in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-13 victory at CenturyLink Field.
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“That is what we’re after,’’ Carroll said. “We’re always after complete effort, total effort. Every step a guy takes, we want it to be full speed, doing his job, chasing the ball or moving the thing down the field. That’s not what comes natural. That’s not a natural thing. That’s something that people have to learn and acquire the mentality for.’’
On the play, which snapped at the Cleveland 48-yard line, Mebane initially rushed up the field, then after fending off blockers, turned at about the Cleveland 45 and gave chase to Johnson as he headed down the sideline. After Rubin hit Johnson, Mebane finally made the tackle at the Seattle 30.
“I mean, that’s an awesome play for a 320-pound dude,’’ defensive end Cliff Avril said of Mebane, who is listed at 6 feet 1 and 311 pounds. “And (Rubin) was in on the play. Most D-tackles aren’t doing those kinds of plays. That just shows where we are as a team and what guys are willing to do to keep winning.’’
A year ago at this time, Mebane could only stand and watch, sidelined by the first serious injury of his career. On a similar play against the New York Giants on Nov. 9, 2014, Mebane pulled his hamstring when he turned to run down a screen pass.
Mebane opted for surgery — he said three doctors told him to have surgery, and two said to let it heal on its own — sending him into an offseason of uncertainty.
Mebane is the longest-tenured Seahawk, drafted in the third round in 2007 and one of just two players left who played for Mike Holmgren (the other being punter Jon Ryan). Until his hamstring injury Mebane had missed just five games.
Though Mebane said he never doubted he would make it back, he had to train and rehab differently.
“It was a very, very hard rehab because I had to train by myself,’’ Mebane said this season. “Usually we have a whole group of defensive linemen. It was very hard to do the same things every day. It was tough, but my daughter and my wife, they motivated me. They kept me going, kept striving and I just had a goal in mind that I just wanted to reach.”
This also is the last season of a five-year, $25 million contract he signed in 2011 that carries a $5.7 million salary-cap hit for this season. The Seahawks approached Mebane during the offseason about a restructure that would have meant a pay cut for this season.
Mebane, though, wanted no part of that, wanting the full $5.5 million due to him this year. That means he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next season after turning 31 in January.
And once healthy this year, Mebane again has proved his worth.
In fact, in some ways he thinks he might be better than ever, as the rehab forced him to work out in ways he never had.
“He had to actually focus on some of the smaller muscles that he probably didn’t even know he had,’’ Avril said with a laugh.
“Looking at it now, I’m pretty glad. It’s probably a blessing that it happened at this point in my career, just training different,’’ Mebane said this season. “I have a better understanding of what I need to do during the season and the offseason.”
Mebane did “a lot of explosive work, a lot of core work’’ that he said added flexibility.
He has missed one game this season and has 123 starts, approaching the Seahawks’ top 10 list in that category. (Keith Butler, a linebacker from 1978-87, is 10th at 132.)
Chasing down Johnson on Sunday, he said, was proof there’s a lot of life left in his legs.
“I want to be a high-effort guy, high-energy guy,’’ Mebane said. “Being able to open up like that, I felt like I was a track star when I had to hurdle a guy to make the tackle.’’
As for any meaning behind the effort on the play, Mebane said he’d leave that to others.
“That’s the lifeblood of our defense, giving great effort,’’ defensive coordinator Kris Richard said of plays such as the one made by Mebane and Rubin. “When we had about 650 pounds between those two guys alone running after a guy who weighs (194) who’s really fast, it energizes the guys on the sideline, it energizes the teammates. Those guys putting up that type of effort, it makes a huge difference.”