Malik McDowell, the Seahawks' first pick in the 2017 draft, was recently injured in an ATV accident and his status for this season is unclear.
Seahawks rookie defensive lineman Malik McDowell, who was the team’s first pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was injured in an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) accident roughly two weeks ago and it’s unclear if or when he will be able to play this season.
The team announced the situation with McDowell in a statement following Sunday’s first training camp practice of the season which was initially read to reporters by one of the team’s public relations directors, referring to it as a “vehicular accident.” It was later confirmed by the Times that McDowell was injured while riding his ATV in his native Michigan (he is from Detroit). An NFL Network report that McDowell had suffered a concussion and facial injuries was also said to be accurate.
The team did not reveal details of his injuries nor give a specific prognosis for McDowell, who remains in Michigan. But the team said McDowell, who was the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft, could return to Seattle soon and McDowell also wrote via Twitter later in the day that he expects to “be back on the field in the near future.”
Asked if McDowell, who played at Michigan State, will be able to play this season, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said “We’ll see. I don’t know that.” Asked if the injuries are long term Carroll said only “we’ll wait and see what’s going on.”
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Carroll and team officials said they were respecting McDowell’s wishes for privacy in not giving out more specific details about the incident, but Carroll said “I think there will be more (information) in the short term.”
Carroll called the incident “unfortunate” and that it is “challenging” for McDowell to handle it.
McDowell was placed on the reserve/did not report list, which allowed the Seahawks to fill his spot on the 90-man roster. The team signed Rodney Coe, who was signed initially by the Seahawks in January before being released in May. Coe, a 6-3, 315-pounder from Akron, was present for Sunday’s practice.
McDowell tweeted: “Just wanna thank the lord that I’m still here.” on July 17 “Just wanna thank the lord that I’m still here” which would coincide with the reported timing of his accident.
After the Seahawks made their statement, McDowell then tweeted that he expects to be with the Seahawks “in the next few days” and that “my injury is not life or career threatening as some have speculated.”
McDowell signed a four-year contract worth $6.9 million in May, a deal that included a $3.198 million signing bonus. It’s unclear if McDowell’s injury could impact his contract should he miss significant time.
Jason Fitzgerald of the website OvertheCap.com said he didn’t anticipate the Seahawks would be able to do anything to alter McDowell’s contract. However, one likely option is that he could be placed on the non-football injury list and per NFL rules teams can try to withhold salary of players who suffer injuries off the field when given that designation. That has proven difficult to enforce, however — the New York Giants memorably lost a legal challenge in 2008 to withhold part of a bonus for receiver Plaxico Burress after he was injured when he shot himself.
“Probably not unless this was an accident that was somehow tied in with him being extremely careless,” Fitzgerald said. “Pretty much they would put him on the NFI (non-football injury) list and agree to pay him his full salary while on the NFI.”
Players can also be fined up to $30,000 when placed on the reserve/did not report list, a designation often reserved for players who hold out. But a Seahawks’ press release noted in this case it freed up a roster spot.
The 6-6, 299-pounder had been considered a potential top 10 draft pick heading into the 2017 season before a disappointing junior season with the Spartans led to some concerns about his maturity and commitment to football that helped cause him to fall to No. 35. The Seahawks traded out of the first round to get McDowell saying at that time he was a player they would have taken with their first round pick at No. 26 had they kept it.
Following the draft, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and Carroll said the team felt comfortable drafting McDowell despite the concerns raised during his junior season in part due to extensive conversations the team had with him and others.
“Had a good visit when he came in, all that, and it paid off,” said Carroll of McDowell, whom the team has envisioned playing a role similar to that of veteran Michael Bennett of being able to play both end and tackle, specifically moving to tackle in pass rush situations.
Said Schneider: ”He had some inconsistencies, he had some close buddies leave, fellow defensive linemen, he was banged up and I think he would tell you that there were a couple games he would want back. Maybe he already told you guys that, I’m not sure. But from a motor standpoint, he knows that he needs to keep going, and those are part of the discussions we had with him when he visited.”
Schneider said he reminded McDowell of their pre-draft conversation following his selection “just to make sure we are all on the same page.”
Sunday, Carroll said the team remains optimistic that McDowell can be a big contributor when he returns, even if when that happens remains unclear.
“We were very excited about him and we will continue to be and just hopefully we will get him back soon,” Carroll said.