“It’s crazy how things worked out for me,” cornerback says after almost becoming a Houston Texan and now getting a chance to start with Richard Sherman out for the season.
When Jeremy Lane walked somewhat apprehensively into the Seahawks locker room on Nov. 1, he was surprised and gratified to receive a spontaneous ovation from the assembled players. He also got some good-natured grief, which was actually a welcome sign of normalcy.
The previous week had been the whirlwind of all whirlwinds for Lane – seemingly told he was benched as Seattle’s starting right cornerback one day, traded to Houston in the Duane Brown deal a few days after that, only to fail the Texans’ physical and have to re-join the team that had traded him 24 hours later.
If that sounds like a recipe for an uncomfortable return, well, you’re not the only one to think so.
“I thought it was going to be awkward at first,’’ Lane admitted on Tuesday. “But as soon as I came in, it was full in there, and everybody started clapping their hands, giving me hugs. It was crazy.”
Lane also got some ribbing for showing up fully dressed in his finery – “looking like he was about to go to the club,” in Bobby Wagner’s words, which led to the aforementioned ribbing. But mostly, said Wagner, “You want to make it the least awkward as possible. It’s still your brother. He came in, we acted like nothing ever happened. Like he was still here, and he was loved.”
Now less than two weeks later, Lane’s Seahawks career has taken another dramatic turn. With the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by Richard Sherman last Thursday, Lane appears first in line to start at the left corner spot that Sherman locked down with distinction for the past 99 games. Newly signed Byron Maxwell practiced with the Seahawks on Tuesday for the first time since he left after the 2014 season, but all indications point to Lane getting the nod on Monday night against Atlanta.
Obviously, this is a vital area of concern for the Seahawks. Teams had such respect for Sherman that they were reluctant to throw his way, essentially sealing off one half of the field. This year, that has meant that rookie Shaq Griffin has been relentlessly tested. Now teams will likely be much more disposed to use the entire field now that Sherman Island has been removed.
As Lane put it, “I think they’ll still attack the rookie a little bit more than me, but they’ll definitely come my way more than they did Sherm” – adding quickly, “which I’m OK with.”
Lane is still marveling at his abrupt change of fortune. It has been a turbulent season for him from the very first game in Green Bay, which resulted in a first-quarter ejection for throwing a punch at a Packers player. In Week 4 against Indianapolis, Lane again exited in the first quarter with a groin injury that knocked him out of the next two games as well.
It was during that absence Griffin seized the job, causing Lane to put out a couple of seemingly indignant tweets about losing his starting spot. He now has a different interpretation.
“I really wouldn’t say I was going to the bench,’’ Lane says now. “It was just going to take me longer than I expected to get back on the field. It was going to be more of a rotation thing to get me back in my starting spot, that’s all.”
A thigh bruise suffered against Houston was the reason given him by the Texans’ GM for failing his physical. So Lane turned around and headed right back to the Seahawks.
“It was crazy, an emotional roller-coaster,’’ he said. “I had to stay emotionally strong for it. But other than that, it worked out.”
It remains to be seen, of course, whether this works out for the Seahawks in the post-Sherman world. Coach Pete Carroll noted the depth they have in the secondary, including Lane, and said, “I’m not counting on anything taking a backwards step. I think we’re going to keep moving forward.”
Griffin said that he’s begun preparation even earlier than normal for Atlanta because he knows that teams will be emboldened by the absence of Sherman.
“Richard brings so much to the game,’’ he said. “Losing him, everybody has to step up a little bit more. Especially me.”
Lane feels the same burden, especially now as the veteran of the likely cornerback pairing.
“It’s going to be crazy without Sherm,’’ he said. “He was a good leader and a coach also on the field. Basically, I’m going to take his role and just step up and become more of a leader and talk to the young guys more.”
Lane, who also suffered a hand injury in the Houston game, feels he’s the healthiest he’s been since early in the season. Considering how close he came to becoming an ex-Seahawk, he calls the negated trade “a blessing in disguise.” But that doesn’t make the eventful week any less surreal.
“This opportunity, it’s a blessing,’’ he said. “It’s crazy how things worked out, me being traded, coming back, and I’ve got an opportunity to start now. Unbelievable.”