RENTON — As Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett tore through the Tennessee secondary Sunday, social media buzzed with a consistent theme.
Lockett, Twitter concluded, might be as underrated as any receiver in the NFL. On Sunday alone, almost 100 tweets were published with the words “Tyler,” “Lockett” and “underrated.”
If Lockett continues on the pace he has set so far in 2021, though, that won’t be a problem by the end of the year.
Lockett is off to the best two-game start for a receiver in team history with 12 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns, the latter two numbers on pace to threaten all-time NFL records and shatter team marks.
His 23.2 yards per catch is first in the NFL and his total yards and touchdowns are second (San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel has 282 yards and Tampa Bay’s Rob Gronkowski has four TDs).
“Maybe they just haven’t paid enough attention to the extraordinary plays he continues to make,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday.
Lockett’s 178 yards Sunday in a 33-30 overtime loss to Tennessee, for instance, was the fifth-highest single-game mark in team history and means that he now has two of the top five games in team history — both occurring since last October.
Here’s the thing — Lockett is just fine with being underrated, especially if it means he can remain out of the spotlight as often as possible.
“I just kind of want to, like, chill and not be in front of the camera,” he said Wednesday. “I just kind of want to, you know, do me.”
But Lockett, who entered the league in 2015 as a third-round pick — making him the third-longest-tenured player on the team — knows that’s not possible.
In fact, Lockett has always understood that dealing with attention comes with the responsibilities of his chosen profession — he spoke to the media for roughly 25 minutes Wednesday.
But when asked what’s different about the start he’s off to this season than others in his career, Lockett smiled and said, “I feel like the only thing that’s different everybody’s trying to start talking about me.”
Lockett, though, then elaborated and said if there’s anything new that’s aided his fast start to the season it’s having a bit more freedom in the offense of first-year coordinator Shane Waldron.
“I just feel like I’ve been given a little more freedom to be able to do a lot of stuff that I did back in college (at Kansas State),” Lockett said. “I haven’t had that freedom, like I used to, and so now I’m just more comfortable and being able to do the stuff that I used to do, because that’s how I always played.”
But asked to give an example of a play this season where that freedom came into action, Lockett demurred.
“No,” he said. “People are showing too much of the plays that I do, so I don’t want to talk about nothing else that I do.”
And just how underrated Lockett is might be in the eye of the beholder.
As Carroll noted with a little bit of a wry smile: “He’s been compensated really well. We (the Seahawks) know it (how good Lockett is). We recognize it.”
That’s a reference to Lockett having signed a four-year contract extension in April that pays him $17.25 million per year, 10th highest in the NFL among receivers. That came on the heels of Lockett making 100 catches last season, a team record, and topping the 1,000-yard mark for a second straight year.
The deal keeps Lockett under contract with Seattle through the 2025 season when he will be 33 years old, though as is the case with most NFL deals, it’s backloaded with its cap hits and contains no guaranteed money beyond the 2022 season.
But Lockett, who has always been one of the more introspective Seahawks — he published a book of poetry in 2019 — said he’s long since stopped worrying about things like contracts.
“I’ve always been frugal,” he said. “My dad (former NFL receiver Kevin Lockett) was trying to tell me you can live a little bit like a king now. And I was like: ‘I’m good. I don’t need much.'”
Lockett says he takes the same attitude now to statistics and records.
He has talked openly of battling depression and anxiety earlier in his career, topics he addresses in his poetry — a journey he said reinforced to him that he can’t base his happiness around football and the money and status that comes with it.
He said Wednesday that he used to let whether he played well Sunday dictate his happiness for the following week. If he didn’t, he spent the week trying to hurry up to get to the next game to redeem himself.
“It can’t be like that,” Lockett said.
He said only half-jokingly that when he gets messages from fans, he knows now “it’s only because I’m helping them on fantasy (football). It’s not because they really love me.”
So as his career has progressed, he said he’s tried to find other reasons for motivation.
This year, for instance, he said he is dedicating games to people from his hometown of Tulsa. Wednesday he talked of dedicating a game to a middle school administrator who could have suspended him 45 days for an indiscretion (he declined to say what it was) but didn’t, a second chance Lockett says might have changed his life path.
So, breaking a record by Steve Largent for most receiving yards in the first two games of a season?
He’ll take it, he said, but only so far.
“It only means something to me because it means something to y’all,” Lockett said. “I never really played for records. When you start hearing people talk about records makes you start wanting to play for records. … I just want to be able to play football, be the best I could be.”