RENTON — As the final minutes of Seattle’s 37-27 win over the 49ers on Sunday wound down, Seahawks tight-ends coach Pat McPherson made a little request of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: Would it be possible to get all five tight ends on the field if the Seahawks got into true run-out-the-clock mode?
“Those are the things you talk about when you feel like the game is a little bit in hand,” Schottenheimer said.
So, as it appeared the Seahawks really would have a few kneel-down plays, a quick plan was hatched to get all five tight ends — Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson and Colby Parkinson — on the field, and then just as quickly put into action as the Seahawks got the ball back with 1:52 left, holding a 10-point lead and the win secure with the 49ers out of timeouts.
“We didn’t even have that personnel grouping,” said Schottenheimer, who said he agreed to do it if McPherson could quickly put the formation together.
In the formation, Willson lined up far left, with Parkinson lined up to the left of quarterback Russell Wilson but off the line, Olsen behind Wilson as the deep back, Hollister to the right of Wilson and off line and Dissly lined up on the far right.
“I’ve never done that before,” said Schottenheimer, who said coaches had to scream at Olsen to make sure he was deep enough — and console fullback Nick Bellore, who usually plays in that formation.
He may never do it again, as Seattle isn’t likely to have five tight ends on the active roster again anytime soon, if ever.
The snaps were the first of Parkinson’s NFL career, and they might have been the last for Willson, the plays serving as a potential changing of the guard at tight end.
The popular Willson, who had played for Seattle for all but one season since 2013, was cut Tuesday, having played just 10 snaps this season while serving as the fourth tight end. And though the team could re-sign him to the practice squad at some point (it did not this week) and you never know what happens in the NFL, especially this year, there’s no guarantee Willson takes the field again.
It was only the day before the game that Parkinson was activated off the non-football injury list after recovering from a broken foot suffered while training in June. He had two weeks of practice to show the team he was ready.
Uncertainty over whether the team would bring up Parkinson and whether it might trade Hollister were the reasons Willson had been kept on the roster. But with Parkinson active and the trade deadline passing Tuesday with Hollister still on the team, the Seahawks cut Willson, meaning Parkinson — a fourth-round draft pick out of Stanford — is now the team’s fourth tight end.
Parkinson said getting on the field for the final snaps “was great,” adding the team called the formation 0-5 personnel.
“Kneel-down, was pretty cool to have all the tight ends out there,” he said.
As Parkinson reminded reporters when he talked via Zoom this week, the game was not only his debut, but also the first he was able to experience from the sideline. Due to COVID-19 protocols, players not active for games are not allowed on the sideline.
“I had to be up in the box for the home games,” he said. “So honestly just experiencing that was awesome, being on the sidelines, feeling the energy of the team.”
The original plan was to experience in the season opener Sept. 13.
The Seahawks took Parkinson with the 133rd overall pick out of Stanford, tantalized by his size (6 feet 7, 252 pounds) and speed (4.77-second 40 at the NFL combine). They envisioned him being able to play as an in-line tight end but maybe more off the line in receiving roles. According to Pro Football Focus he had just one drop in three years at Stanford while recording 87 receptions and 12 touchdowns.
But Parkinson’s plans for the season got upended in June when he broke a bone in his foot while running.
“I was running routes back home (he’s from Simi Valley, California), training to come up here and ended up breaking my fifth metatarsal,’’ he said. Parkinson had surgery two days later and began a rehab plan.
Parkinson said he was healthy enough a while ago to play.
But Seattle was able to be patient with Parkinson due to the presence of Willson and Hollister. Via NFL rules Parkinson had to sit out the first six weeks before he could practice, a time that Parkinson — who is just 21 and the youngest player on the roster — now says may prove to have been pretty valuable.
“It was kind of a blessing,” Parkinson said. “It was almost like a mini-redshirt (a term for sitting out a college season). I got to train, got to watch the guys and come in with fresh legs halfway through the season.”
It may also have given him a new appreciation for it all.
“Playing football is a million times better than training for football,” Parkinson said. “So as much fun as I was having training and getting ready for the season, just playing football has been a blast. So I’m very thankful to be out there, and just going out there with a sense of gratitude every day, you know. It’s not a given that I get to play football. So I’m definitely thankful.”