The deadline for NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season for COVID-19-related reasons expired Thursday afternoon, with only one Seahawk choosing to sit out the year — offensive lineman Chance Warmack.
Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf’s family experience with the virus could’ve made him at least think about opting out of this season. Metcalf revealed during a Zoom call with media Thursday that a couple of his cousins have contracted COVID-19. They’ve since recovered.
“It’s real out there,” Metcalf said.
Despite that experience, Metcalf said, he never wavered on playing the 2020 season.
“I haven’t played since January,” Metcalf said. “I’m ready. I’m ready to go.”
One of the more tantalizing questions the Seahawks face is just how much better Metcalf can get in his second year in the NFL.
After falling to the final pick of the second round of the 2019 draft — the Seahawks moved up to get him, eliciting Metcalf’s response of “What took you so long?” when the team informed him of his selection — Metcalf proved worthy of some of the first-round projections he’d received early on.
Playing in every game a year after a scary neck injury ended his college career, Metcalf finished second among all rookie receivers with 58 receptions and third in yards with 900, both second in Seahawks history for a rookie behind Joey Galloway in 1995.
None of those numbers includes Metcalf’s most impressive moment — catching seven passes for 160 yards in the wild-card playoff win at Philadelphia, the most yards ever for a rookie in a playoff game.
According to Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value Rating, only nine other draft picks a year ago were worth more to their team than Metcalf and only one who was drafted after he was — former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew with Jacksonville.
“He had so much to prove in his first year,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in a Zoom interview with reporters earlier this week. “And because he’s a great competitor and he had a chip on his shoulder — it was huge — he wanted to prove that he belonged and that he could be a star, and he did everything he could in his first year. Smart, bright, tough, consistent, applied himself, made the plays and overcame the disappointments of the plays that he couldn’t make at times that are well within his range.”
Metcalf said limiting the plays he “couldn’t make at times,” in Carroll’s words, is his focus entering Year 2 in the NFL.
“I know I had a few drops last year that I’ve got to clean up and just expanding my role in the offense,” he said of his goals for 2020. “I know I was just getting my feet wet with everything and the offense and being in the league. (Now) it’s just taking the next step.”
Metcalf’s progression as a rookie raised an additional question this offseason of whether the Seahawks could have two receivers surpass the 1,000-yard mark (Tyler Lockett had 1,057 a year ago).
That’s happened only one time in Seahawks history, when Galloway (1,039) and Brian Blades (1,001) each topped the mark in 1995.
“He’s going to be better this year,” Carroll said. “He had an incredible offseason. He spent over I don’t, at least a month with Russell (Wilson), working out, and they found a way to do it, and he had a phenomenal summer in that regard.”
Metcalf said the sessions with Wilson are only deepening a relationship that he said “goes further than football.”
And what has he learned most from Wilson over the past year?
“Nothing’s going to be handed to you,” he said. “If you want to be great you’ve got to go get it.”
Metcalf also spent some time locally working out with a group of players that included former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
“Just going at it one-on-one,” Metcalf said of the sessions with Sherman. “Just technique work in a 5-yard area and we would critique each other and tell each other what we saw.”
Metcalf has also been learning some additional tricks of the trade this summer from a new teammate, 35-year-old tight end Greg Olsen.
“He’s been teaching me a lot this offseason since he’s been in the league probably, what, 20 years now,” Metcalf said.
Actually, Olsen has been in the NFL for only 13 years. But it may seem like 20 to Metcalf because Olsen began his career playing with Metcalf’s father, Terrence, with the Chicago Bears (each was with the Bears in 2007 and 2008).
Metcalf, in fact, said his father accompanied him to a recent workout with Olsen and the two began sharing stories of their time with the Bears.
“It was kind of funny because they just started smiling,” DK Metcalf said. “And Greg was like, ‘I’ve got to tell you some stories about the locker room and all of that.’ It looked like they had a pretty good relationship.”
Now it’s time for DK Metcalf and Olsen to form their own memories during what will be as interesting an NFL season as the league has seen.
“I mean, it’s a challenge,” Metcalf said of navigating COVID-19 protocols. “But, you know, we are all up for it. That’s the great thing about being athletes — our bodies are made to adapt in situations and I think it’s gonna be fun to just to see how everybody treats this and you know who’s gonna come out on top? I think this year’s gonna be special for whichever team wins the Super Bowl or you know, however many games we get to play. I’m just curious and can’t wait to see how everything just plays out.”