RENTON — It’s not just what you hear in the words of his coaches that gives a sense that the Cassius Marsh playing for the Seahawks now is different from the Cassius Marsh who played for the Seahawks from 2014-17, but what you read on the back of his jersey.
There, it says “Marsh Sr.’’
That’s a nod to his son, Cassius Jason Lee Marsh Jr., born just a few days before Marsh re-signed with the Seahawks in April.
Marsh’s fiancée, Devyn Adair — a model and singer from Puyallup — and his son have been regular presences at Seahawks training camp, Marsh able to spend a few minutes with them after morning practices before heading back into more meetings and film reviews.
“Oh, it means everything in the world to me,’’ Marsh, a defensive end playing specifically the team’s LEO rush-end position, says of those moments. “My son, he is everything to me. Him and my fiancée. It just provides me with just another huge reason to go out and do my best every single day. It humbles you. It provides you with a lot of patience.’’
All are big parts of why Marsh says “I’d say I’m definitely a better pro’’ than during his first tenure with the Seahawks.
“Just handling your business on and off the field and doing the little things that help you stay on the field and knowing your playbook and just doing the right things and being a leader, things like that,” Marsh says.
A fourth-round pick in 2014 out of UCLA, Marsh played three seasons for the Seahawks before being traded the week the 2017 season began to New England for fifth- and seventh-round picks (the fifth-rounder was used on offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, the seventh-rounder a pick Seattle had just dealt to the Patriots to get cornerback Justin Coleman and later used in another trade).
“That was devastating for me because I really had started to really embrace my role here,’’ Marsh said of being traded by the Seahawks. “But things happen, and the NFL is a business and it was what it was. I was able to go away and grow, and grow through some turmoil and some good things, as well.’’
That turmoil included being waived by the Patriots in November of 2017 and then released by the 49ers last March after San Francisco traded for defensive end Dee Ford.
Marsh said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in May 2018 that his 2 1/2 months with the Patriots were so unenjoyable that he asked to be cut and had considered giving up football.
“They don’t have fun there,’’ he said then. “There’s nothing fun about it. There’s nothing happy about it. I didn’t enjoy any of my time there, you know what I’m saying? It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much.”
Then, after thinking he’d found a home with the 49ers, who had signed him to a two-year deal worth up to $7.7 million in February 2018, he said he was surprised to be cut after only a year, one in which he had tied for second on the team with 5½ sacks.
Marsh began to give an answer about the end of his time with the 49ers before stopping and saying he doesn’t want to talk about the other teams he’s played for and asking if he can keep the interview focused on where he is now.
“I would rather just talk about the Seahawks,’’ he said.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., though, thinks the travels and travails of the past two years have changed Marsh’s outlook on football and the Seahawks.
“Well, he’s been through some things,’’ Norton said. “He’s had some experiences, and Cassius, he’ll be the first one to tell you that he’s glad to be back. He’s learned a lot, he appreciates where he is now, and I think his maturity has been the main thing. You’ll see a really mature, strong, determined player once we get going.”
The success of the early part of Seattle’s season might depend on it.
With heralded free-agent signee Ziggy Ansah still sidelined as he recovers from shoulder surgery, Marsh is working as the starter at the LEO spot. If Ansah has any sort of setback, Marsh could well be the opening-day starter.
Even when Ansah returns, Marsh will still play significantly as a pass-rusher, a spot generally considered one of the team’s biggest question marks following the trade in April of Frank Clark to Kansas City.
When Marsh signed with Seattle, about three weeks before Clark was traded, he said he hoped he would be playing with Clark.
Marsh, in fact, calls Clark “probably one of my best friends, if not my best friend, when I left here, and to this day me and him still talk a good amount. That’s my dawg.’’
After his release by the 49ers, Marsh said he was in constant communication with Clark, who at that time had been given a franchise tag by the Seahawks and wanted Marsh to come rejoin him in Seattle.
“We schemed it up, we wanted it to happen,’’ Marsh said. “Me and him wanted to play together again.’’
But in the weird way that the NFL works, Clark was then traded to Kansas City, with the Chiefs wanting Clark in part help fill the void left by the trade of Ford to the 49ers — the acquisition that compelled the 49ers to release Marsh and made him available to re-sign with Seattle.
Marsh will make $1.85 million this year, about half of what he could have made with the 49ers.
But the last few years have opened Marsh’s eyes about where happiness truly lies, he says.
“Going elsewhere made me very thankful for how good we have it here,’’ he says. “There were other (teams he could have signed with). But this ended up being the best place for me, and I wanted to come back where I started and finish what I started.’’