Season-ending injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor raise the question of whether the LOB will ever be the same again.
On the surface it looked like the beginning to any other Seahawks’ practice of any other day during the Pete Carroll era Saturday.
Uptempo music blared as players conducted early stretching, with coaches good-naturedly partaking in a favorite ritual during those exercises — attempting to throw a football into a garbage can 30 yards away or so.
As James Brown’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’’ boomed, Carroll enthusiastically pumped his fist at the song’s signature saxophone note.
But then drills began and if the music itself didn’t change, the scene turned unquestionably darker.
Off to the side, as defensive backs started one-on-one practice, stood Kam Chancellor in sweats and Richard Sherman on a knee scooter.
Sherman is out for the year after having surgery this week on his Achilles. Chancellor may be out the rest of the year as well with a neck injury. Reports Saturday indicated he is, though the team said nothing is official — ominously, however, no one was denying the reports, either. Each suffered their injuries a week ago Thursday at Arizona, making Nov. 9, 2017 the Seahawks’ own version of a Day of Infamy.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the two founding members of the Legion of Boom and along with free safety Earl Thomas the LOB’s true heartbeat and equally hard to really know how the Seahawks will look without them.
We’ve never seen the Seahawks play without Sherman since he arrived in 2011 — he had started the last 99 games dating to the sixth game of the 2011 season.
And while Chancellor has missed 11 games for varying reasons the last three years, we’ve never seen the Seahawks without two of the LOB.
But the difference in the team in having just one member of the LOB gone has been stark enough.
Since Sherman joined in 2011 Seattle is 67-29 when all three play, including playoffs. Without just one of the LOB Seattle is 10-10-1.
*Stats updated through beginning of 2017 season
Consider further that Seattle has allowed 30 or more points 12 times since 2011 — five have come in one of the 21 games in which Chancellor or Thomas missed, meaning that’s happened only seven times in the 96 games all three have played.
And the impossible-to-ignore if frightening-to-think-about question that hovers over all is if this is the beginning of the end of the LOB as we have come to know it.
ESPN reported there’s at least some doubt as to whether Chancellor, who turns 30 in April, will ever play again.
Sherman, who turns 29 next year, has said he has no question he’ll be back good as new. But Achilles injuries can be tricky and Sherman has just one year left on his contract in 2018. While it seems more likely than not that Sherman will be without Seattle next year, his long-term future is obviously in doubt.
But even if both return next year there are no guarantees everything goes right back to the way it was.
Thomas will also be 29 next season, and after years in which the trio seemed indestructible each has now suffered a major injury in the last 12 months.
Even if all three make it back can they reform at ages 29 and up to still dominate and intimidate foes the way they did in the 2012-15 glory days?
Thomas talked with almost surprising frankness on Friday about how the group that brought Seattle its greatest football moment is eroding — the Seahawks will have just 12 players available on Monday who were part of the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, just 10 from the team that won it the year before.
“Yeah, slowly but surely, we are getting thin as far as that group,’’ Thomas said. “You can’t control that. It’s the nature of the game. It’s a violent game and guys play 100 percent every play, so it happens.’’
This week, Thomas also apparently delivered a pep talk to the defensive back group that remains.
“Earl was like ‘man this is what we have,’’’ said Byron Maxwell, an original member of the LOB who returned this week as a free agent to help replace Sherman. “We have these young guys, they can play, too. So we’ve got to go with what we’ve got.’’
Watch | Pete Carroll discusses Kam Chancellor’s injury situation
What Seattle has is Thomas — who himself is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him the last two games — and Bradley McDougald in Chancellor’s place at strong safety with Jeremy Lane — who a few weeks ago was benched and then traded to Houston before a failed physical rescinded it — stepping in for Sherman at left cornerback. Rookie Shaquill Griffin, who hurt his shoulder against Arizona, will start at left corner with Justin Coleman, acquired from New England before the season, at nickel. Maxwell may also figure into the mix in a week or two as he reacclimates himself to the Seahawks.
What Seattle also has is lots of questions about the future.
The Seahawks denied last spring they were preparing for life after the LOB last spring when they drafted four defensive backs among their first eight picks.
But the implication was obvious.
They never imagined, though, that they might be facing the mortality of the LOB quite this quickly.
Carroll was asked Saturday if possibly playing the rest of the year without Sherman and Chancellor represents the biggest challenge he’s had since the core group was assembled.
“I’m not even thinking about comparing it,’’ he said. “… it’s a good challenge. These guys are fantastic football players and big-time leaders on this team. They’re still here; they’re still working with us, they’re still in the locker room and in the meeting room and all of that because they care so much, and you still feel their presence, which is really important.”
Then he paused.
“We’re going to be alright,’’ Carroll said. “We’ll be OK.”
They may never again, though, be quite the same.