The Seahawks re-signed Quinton Jefferson on Monday with it uncertain when Cliff Avril will return.
Quinton Jefferson watched the Seahawks’ win over the Colts on Sunday night for all the obvious reasons.
A fifth-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2016 before being waived, he wanted to check up on his former team. And having since been signed by the resurgent Los Angeles Rams and at the time on the team’s practice squad, he also wanted to get that much more of a look at some players he figured to spend the week emulating as the Rams prepared for an NFC West game Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
When Jefferson saw defensive lineman Cliff Avril leave the game in the first quarter because of a neck injury he didn’t necessarily think it would somehow impact him.
“I watched the game, but you never know until it actually happens,’’ Jefferson said. “I was just concentrating on the situations I had at hand, and whatever happens, happens.’’
On Monday it happened, as Jefferson got a call from the Seahawks to come back to Seattle and help replace Avril on the defensive line.
Jefferson is not really Avril’s exact replacement. He’s set to play more in a Michael Bennett role as an end on the strong side of the line in the base defense and then a tackle in the nickel.
But with the Seahawks unsure if Avril will return, they knew they needed another linemen, and adding Jefferson means they can let Frank Clark play more as a rush end and with Marcus Smith replace Avril with Jefferson adding depth on the inside.
“He’s jumped right into the rotation at defensive end and will help on Mike’s side for the most part, and he will play some three-technique in passing situations for us,’’ coach Pete Carroll said of Jefferson.
That’s the role the Seahawks had pegged for Jefferson when they took him as 147th overall pick in 2016, making the rare move of trading up to get him.
The 6-foot-4, 291-pounder was an immediate hit with teammates and coaches with his gregarious nature and inspiring story — he and his wife have three daughters, and he overcame a broken jaw suffered in a fight before his freshman year at Maryland as well as a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in a knee in 2014 to reach the NFL.
“Everything I do is for them,’’ he said of his family on the day he was drafted by the Seahawks.
But his rookie season with the Seahawks was a struggle.
He suffered a thumb injury early in the season that limited his action, and then during an October practice again tore an ACL in a non-contact drill.
“It just got caught in the turf,’’ he said. “Just one of them freak accidents.’’
That put him out for the season after just three games and one tackle.
He recovered in time for Seattle’s training camp this season, and though he was limited at times during early training camp practices and exhibition games, he felt he was fully recovered by the time the preseason ended.
“I came back, I felt fine,’’ Jefferson said. “I felt good. So now I forget I even had an ACL injury. I feel good.’’
He played substantially at the end of Seattle’s preseason but was waived in the cutdown to 53 as the Seahawks kept just eight defensive linemen — if they had kept nine he might have made it.
“He could have easily been on our team,’’ Carroll said. “Heck at the end of the preseason, he made a great surge the last two or three weeks of the preseason games and we just couldn’t quite hang on to him.’’
Jefferson said he understood.
“It’s a numbers game,’’ he said. “You can’t take it personally.’’
Claimed off waivers by the Rams — the Seahawks would have kept him on the practice squad if they hadn’t — he played in their season-opening win over the Colts. He then was waived when the Rams reinstated Aaron Donald to their 53-man roster when he ended his holdout, then was re-signed to the Rams’ practice squad.
His family stayed in the Seattle area, his wife pregnant with their fourth child, while Jefferson played the scout team for the Rams’ opponents.
Understanding that he had to do his job the best he could to try to get another chance, he was content enough with that role until the call came from the Seahawks on Monday. Seattle had to claim Jefferson within five days of the game due to an NFL rule that prohibits signing players from a practice squad as a means of just gaining intel closer than five days prior to the game — Seattle has to now pay Jefferson at least three game checks by signing him to the 53-man roster.
“It feels good,’’ Jefferson said of returning to Seattle. “It was strange at first, but it feels good to be back.’’
Seattle would almost certainly have signed Jefferson this week regardless once Avril got hurt since he was the most readily available player on the defensive line who knew their system. But he admits he might also be able to tell his new/old team a few things about his suddenly old team.
“It’s definitely awkward,’’ he said of playing the Rams this week after having been part of the team the past month. “But I mean I feel like I have an advantage. I have a good feel for their offense and their tempo and for their formations and what they run. So hopefully that can translate onto the field this Sunday.’’
With the hope that he sticks around for a lot more Sundays than just this one.
“It was a blessing,” he said of the call to come back to Seattle. “Everything fell into place.”