GLENDALE, Ariz. — The scene would churn your insides regardless of the context.
Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs lay on the turf near the 30-yard line in the fourth quarter, his right leg completely mangled.
After slipping, then enduring a block from Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh, the 28-year-old suffered one of the more gruesome injuries in the NFL this season — something trainers recognized immediately as they rushed onto the field to help.
He broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle, which would be hard to watch in any situation. But if you knew the context, it might have made you want to cry.
Diggs was nine minutes and 17 seconds away from becoming a free agent for the first time in his career. Nine minutes and 17 seconds from landing a monster contract after playing like one of the best safeties in the league over the past two seasons, in which he made consecutive Pro Bowls.
Maybe that life-changing deal will still happen. Maybe the worst part of Diggs’ injury will be the appearance, and a full recovery will come. NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport tweeted that the break was clean, that there was no ligament damage, and that Diggs should be back on the field in four months.
But, man … it looked awful.
That’s why Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed slammed his helmet to the ground when he realized how seriously Diggs had been hurt. It’s why the rest of his teammates stood stone-faced as though they had seen a ghost. And it’s likely why tears streamed down Diggs’ face as he was carted off the field.
“Just a heartbreaker, because everybody loves this guy so much because of who he is. He’s such an imbedded leader, the character, the toughness, all of that stuff,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team beat Arizona 38-30 on Sunday. “It crushed everybody, and it wasn’t ignored in the way they (the Seahawks) finished. They finished for him.”
Every Seahawk that talked with the media Sunday spoke emotionally about Diggs, most without solicitation. Quarterback Russell Wilson mentioned how much he’s thinking about Quandre right now — and that “he deserves to get paid the right way.”
Defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap said “you got a love a guy like (Diggs)” and that when it came to his injury, glumly stated, “I don’t have any words.”
Receiver Tyler Lockett, who said he will spend the night in Arizona with Quandre, lamented the timing of Diggs’ fracture while commenting on the brutal nature of the NFL.
“It just sucks, to be honest,” Lockett said. “That’s just something that just, you know, happens in the game of football. They always tell you that it’s 100% injuries, 100% injury, you just never know when something is gonna happen to you and you just pray that nothing like that does happen to you.”
Even Patriots safety Adrian Phillips discussed Diggs’ injury after his team’s loss Sunday, getting emotional as he told Quandre he loves him and that “I hate this so much.”
If you didn’t know what Diggs meant to his peers before Sunday, you know now. His contributions on the field were at an All-Pro level as he nabbed a team-high five interceptions for Seattle. But he wouldn’t have elicited the kinds of reactions he did if he wasn’t equally respected in the locker room.
There was plenty to celebrate for the glass-half-full Seahawks fan on Sunday. Rashaad Penny exploded for 190 rushing yards on 23 carries, perhaps establishing himself as Seattle’s lead running back of the future. Wilson finished with three touchdown passes to his one interception and posted a passer rating of 110.7 for the day. Second-year linebacker Jordyn Brooks tied a single-game franchise record with 20 tackles and set a franchise record with 184 tackles on the season.
The Seahawks may have finished the year 7-10, but after knocking off the 11-6 Cardinals on the road, they don’t look as though they need to undergo major changes. But if there was one image that stood out from that game, it was Diggs leaving the field in distress.
Again, it was reportedly a clean break. Nobody can say for sure how this will affect Diggs in free agency or whether he will be back for the Seahawks, but there seems to be a good chance he’ll return to his former self.
And for what it’s worth, he seems to be in good spirits.
“God’s plan is better than mine,” Diggs tweeted Sunday night. “Thankful always! I appreciate the love and support and trust me, I’ll be back!”
Based on the outpouring Sunday, there seems to be a whole lot of people who want to see just that.