Lockette suffered a life-threatening neck injury during a game last November at Dallas last November. Turning 30 this month, Lockette said he hoped to return to football but instead will now head into the next phase of his life.
RENTON — At one point during a retirement news conference that was at times upbeat and at others rife with the reality that football is dangerous, Ricardo Lockette stopped and said he had a promise for his former Seahawks position coach, Dave Canales.
“Sorry about the days I was late, Coach,’’ Lockette said to Canales, who works with the Seahawks’ receivers and was among dozens of players, coaches and administrators in attendance Thursday at the team facility. “It won’t happen again.”
Another promise Lockette made: He doesn’t regret anything that transpired during his five-year NFL career, including four with the Seahawks — even the way it ended.
Lockette, 29, confirmed Thursday that he no longer can play football due to a neck injury suffered Nov. 1 at Dallas on a hit by the Cowboys’ Jeff Heath while running downfield in punt coverage.
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Lockette lay motionless on the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for a few terrifying minutes before being taken off on a stretcher, raising both fists to the air and making an “L” sign, a symbol of the team’s slogan, “Love Our Brothers.”
He underwent surgery the next day to repair ligament damage in his neck and later spoke optimistically about returning to football.
But on Thursday he gave the most specific details of his injury, which made it clear that playing was not an option.
Lockette said he has titanium plates in his neck that help to keep together vertebrae connecting his skull to his spinal cord, which had been detached. The result is that he has only 50 percent rotation of his neck.
“That was pretty much it,’’ he said. “There’s nothing I could do with that.”
Asked if it was a tough decision to retire, he said: “No, because I love my family, and I’d rather walk.”
At one point he listed activities he might no longer be able to do, such as riding rollercoasters, “lifting heavy things, playing sports with my kids.”
He said he wishes he hadn’t been as distracted by another Dallas player — Byron Jones, who he was trying to shed as he ran downfield — to be in better position when Heath him.
“There was always something I could have done,’’ he said.
Lockette also said he will be forever grateful to have played football, be a Seahawk and reach three Super Bowls in three years (including one with the 49ers in the 2012 season).
“It’s kind of tough,’’ Lockette said. “People say, ‘Hey dude, are you sad that this happened to you and that the guy hit you and blah, blah, blah?’ No, because I’m a dog. And you live by the sword and you die by the sword. So I can’t complain about that. And I’ve done a lot of things on the field that I probably shouldn’t have gotten away with it. And I don’t regret it because I did it for my boys.”
Flanked by his mother, father, brother and girlfriend, Lockette told his story of arriving in Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2011, rooming initially with another undrafted-free-agent receiver, Doug Baldwin, whose first words essentially were to turn out the light and go to bed.
From Albany, Ga., he had been a track star at Division II Fort Valley (Ga.) State before turning more seriously to football.
His speed (he won a Division II national title in the 200 meters with a time of 20.63 seconds) and size (6 feet 2, 211 pounds) made him an enticing, if raw, prospect. After making Seattle’s roster in 2011, he was released in 2012 and ended up with San Francisco. After being released there and then brief a stint with the Bears, he returned to Seattle for good midway through the 2013 season becoming a regular part of the receiving rotation.
He had just 22 career catches, but his impact seemed far greater, as he found himself in some of the Seahawks’ biggest moments: He accompanied one of his best friends, running back Marshawn Lynch, for almost every foot of Lynch’s 79-yard “Beastquake II” run at Arizona in 2014.
Lockette’s most lasting contributions, though, came on special teams. He admitted often during his second stint with the Seahawks that he finally understood the value of special teams. Playing a style in which the phrase “reckless abandon” would have been an understatement, Lockette became one of the NFL’s most feared gunners.
“He really was the embodiment of the spirit,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Lockette’s announcement Thursday. “We talk about our style – it’s about great effort, great enthusiasm, great toughness and playing smart.”
Carroll then joked: “That was Ricardo … almost. He wasn’t always playing the smartest (laughter) because he was so tough and so crazy at times. But he just embodied our style and our spirit, and everybody knew it, and everybody appreciated him so much.
Lockette said he doesn’t know what is next, other than spending time with his family and finding a way to help others. He said he might try to remain in football (he has not spoken with the Seahawks about a future role) but has no specific plans.
“I’m not really sure,’’ he said. “But whatever it is, it’ll be great.”
Ricardo Lockette bio
Position: Wide receiver.
Height, weight: 6-2, 211.
College: Fort Valley State.
Born: May 21, 1986 in Albany, Ga.
Notable: Finished NFL career with 22 catches for 451 yards and four touchdowns. … Caught a 19-yard pass in Super Bowl XLVIII. … Made NFL debut vs. San Francisco on Dec. 24, 2011, catching a 44-yard pass from Tarvaris Jackson. … In 2008, won a Division II national title in the 200 meters with a time of 20.63 seconds.