Lockette had surgery to repair ligaments in his neck after taking a violent hit Nov. 1 while covering a punt. He returned to CenturyLink Field on Sunday night and received a warm welcome from teammates and fans.
Ricardo Lockette stood up high in the stadium at CenturyLink Field, neck brace and all, waving a towel right before the game.
As Lockette, the injured Seahawks receiver and special-teams ace, tried to pump life into the crowd, his teammates on Seattle’s kickoff coverage group looked up from the field, just before the opening kickoff, and formed an “L” with their fingers. It was the same gesture Lockette had made two weeks prior, when he left the field in Arlington, Texas, strapped to a stretcher after a violent collision.
The Seahawks have adopted “Love Our Brothers” as their unofficial slogan, and the “L” has come to represent that ideal.
“To have that many people cheer for you and care about you and pray for you, it’s something further than my dreams could reach,” Lockette said in the Seahawks’ locker room after their 39-32 loss to the Cardinals. “I’m forever in debt for that. It’s one of the best days of my life.”
Lockette has a long road to recovery ahead, but he was in good spirits. He said he must wear the neck brace for six weeks before he can start rehabbing. Once he does, he expects to play next season.
“I expect to be a Pro Bowler,” he said.
Lockette had surgery to repair ligaments in his neck after taking a vicious hit Nov. 1 while covering a punt. He fell to the ground, right on the Dallas star at midfield. Teammates immediately took off their helmets and knelt around him. Some heard the impact and knew it was bad. Others knew as soon as they saw Lockette lying motionless.
It was a scary and sobering reminder of just how violent this sport is and just how high the stakes are. Lockette experienced a rush of frightening thoughts on the field.
“It was one of the craziest things I’ve been a part of,” he said. “I’m lying on the ground. You can’t feel your legs. You can’t feel your arms. And you can’t really respond. You don’t really know what’s going to happen in the next couple of seconds. You don’t know if you’re going to black out. You don’t know if you’re ever going to get feeling in your body. You don’t know if this is it.”
He paused and gathered his emotions.
“You just have a real blank mind, and then all the important things start to matter,” he said. “You start to think about your family. Am I going to play with my kids again? Just the important stuff. The crazy thing is, once I got my voice back and once I was able to talk again, all I cared about was winning the game.”
Lockette said feeling returned to his body just before they loaded him onto a cart. First he regained the ability to talk, and then feeling surged back to his shoulders and hands before spreading down to his knees and legs.
“Once I could wiggle that, I figured I might be OK,” he said.
On the field, before they carted him away, he told teammates around him, “Let’s get them. We have business to handle. Finish the game. I’ll be all right. You guys take care of it. That’s it. Don’t worry about me. Win the game.”
Lockette said the swelling of support he has received since the injury has meant “everything.” He was cheered Sunday as he walked out of the tunnel surrounded by family about an hour before kickoff, and the team store in downtown has signatures from hundreds of fans wishing Lockette well.
“It’s always great to know that people care about you,” he said. “Sometimes people let you know when it’s too late, when you’re gone. But it’s amazing to feel that kind of love, that kind of appreciation, from people you obviously had never met before.”
Lockette said he is staying positive about the work he must do in the coming months. But he was confident that he would be back.
“I try to brush my teeth better than my parents, my brother, everybody,” he said. “I want to make the best breakfast, and I want to be the best football player. I want to be the best dad, the best gunner. I want to be great at everything. It’s just something that overflows into my work. It’s more of a mentality than something you put on for work. This is going to be a walk in the park for me. A little dinged-up neck, I’ll be all right.”