The Lions will line up Sunday with three members of the Seahawks' 2013 Super Bowl title team, almost as many as Seattle will.
When the Detroit Lions host Seattle on Sunday, they will do so with a roster containing almost as many members of the Seahawks’ 2013 Super Bowl title team as will Seattle.
The return of K.J. Wright means Seattle should go into the game with five Super Bowl ringholders available to play in the game — Wright, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy.
Detroit will counter with three — receiver Golden Tate, tight end Luke Willson and defensive back DeShawn Shead — who each played in Seattle’s 43-8 win over Denver and then later signed with the Lions as free agents.
Tate, who departed after the 2013 season, has now been a Lion (five) for more years than he was a Seahawk (four) and has already played against Seattle twice, including in a wild-card playoff game after the 2016 season.
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But for Willson and Shead, Sunday will be their first reunion with Seattle since each signed with the Lions last offseason.
And after somewhat slow starts, Willson and Shead have each begun to forge key roles for the Lions.
Willson, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Detroit after playing five years with the Seahawks (and amid indications Seattle did not present Willson with a similar offer), saw his most extensive playing time of the season last Sunday in a 32-21 win over Miami, getting 41 snaps.
Many came in blocking roles as Detroit rushed for 248 yards, including lining up as a fullback in the team’s diamond formation.
Willson also has six receptions for 37 yards, two coming against Miami.
“Luke has been great,’’ Detroit coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday. “I really liked him, in free agency, some of the versatility that he had as a player. I think he’s a guy that can obviously help in the run game and the pass game, but he can also line up in a bunch of different alignments. He can be in the backfield, he can be on the line of scrimmage, he can be off, so some of that versatility factor was great. We thought it really fit some of the things that we wanted to do and when you meet Luke and you get a chance to spend some time with him, his energy, his enthusiasm for the game and the way that he loves to play and practice and get after it was just something that I thought was a good fit for our team.”
Shead, who had been with the Seahawks since 2012, signed a one-year deal worth up to $3.5 million with Detroit in March, a contract that included $1.5 million guaranteed.
But he then was released in the cutdown to 53 after battling a strained quad during the preseason.
He was re-signed two weeks into the season to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum of $790,000 and has played in three games since then, most significantly getting 45 snaps in Detroit’s surprising 31-23 win over Green Bay on Oct. 7 and last week against Miami getting a season-high 16 snaps on special teams.
“He’s kind of been a quintessential part of our team here for the last several weeks,’’ Patricia said. “(He’s a) guy that we got to know during the spring and worked through training camp and just glad at this point of how he’s out there working hard every single day to get better.”
In comments to Detroit media this week, Willson and Shead each downplayed the significance of playing Seattle this season, and Willson noted it hadn’t been his choice to not remain with the Seahawks.
“It’s not like I left,’’ said Willson, according to ESPN.com. “I didn’t leave on bad terms. You sit there and if you’re in any locker room for five years, it’s not just players. It’s equipment guys. It’s the training staff, the strength coaches, you have a relationship with all those guys, so it was tough to leave in that sense.’’
Willson told detroitnews.com that: “I prepare for them all week like I would prepare for anybody else. Then after the game, I’ll be able to speak to my old buddies, share a few laughs, and then on to the next one. But it’s not going to be too crazy for me.”
Said Shead: “It’ll be good to see a lot of people; I know a lot of people there, but it’s just another game for me. It’s just another game. Just another championship opportunity.”
Tate, meanwhile, remains a key cog in the Detroit offense, leading the Lions in receiving with 37 receptions for 467 yards while also having returned two punts for 15 yards.
Tate is in the final season of the five-year, $31 million deal he signed with the Lions in March 2014, a contract Seattle decided not to match, due in part to having given Percy Harvin a six-year, $67 million deal the year before and unable (or at least unwilling) to pay two receivers that much.
Carroll acknowledged it’s a decision he has thought about a few times since.
“Yeah, I liked him a lot,’’ Carroll said. “And sometimes you just can’t get it done and it doesn’t fit. I don’t mind saying that. I think Golden is a great player. I loved the way he played as a young guy coming in. He always had a knack. He was such a naturally competitive, kind of athletically artistic type of guy in his style. … He was always fun to have on the club. He was a returner, too, which he’s doing now. Yeah, we just couldn’t get it done at the time.”
But while moving on is often a part of life in the NFL, Carroll said it doesn’t mean what former players did while they were in Seattle is forgotten.
“Those three guys were really fantastic guys in this program and they’re significant characters and personalities and contributors,’’ Carroll said. “Those guys, they feel like they’re always kind of our guys because they started with us and grew up with us. It’ll be fun to play against them. We’re going to get after them hopefully and make it hard on them, just like they’ll do to us. It should be real competitive and fun and all that, but if we get a chance, we’ll visit with them, sure.”