Veteran tight end Ed Dickson, who missed the Seahawks' first six games with a soft tissue injury, said he "might be in the best shape of any player in the NFL right now. I just have to go out there and prove it."

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Ed Dickson used the term “unfamiliar territory.”

The 31-year-old Bellflower, Calif., native could have been literally describing his first season in Seattle, though he played college football nearby at the University of Oregon.

Instead, the Seahawks’ tight end was referring to an unfamiliar feeling. For five consecutive seasons, with two teams, Dickson appeared in all 16 regular season games. He was a 6-foot-4, 250-pound constant, tying Brent Celek for the longest streak (82 games) for any active tight end in the NFL.

Then, in an instant, it was over. The ninth-year pro — who has split his career between Baltimore (2010-13) and Carolina (2014-17) — was placed on the non-football injury list in July for what he termed a “soft tissue injury,” sidelining him both for training camp and the first six games of the regular season.

In essence, his first impression as a Seahawk wasn’t any impression at all.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that I was happy about it, but I understood the process and I accepted it,” Dickson said Thursday. “We move on from there. Being back with my teammates, being back with my brothers, that’s the only thing I’m worried about right now — being a person that can contribute to the team. That’s all I’m worried about.”

Dickson — who is expected to make his delayed debut against the Lions on Sunday — is not worried about whether he could have played in the Seahawks’ season-opener, for example, something he alluded to when he tweeted, “Season:Ready,” back on Aug. 31.

“I’m going to stay away from that,” Dickson said with a knowing grin, when asked to broach the topic. “I feel like, personally, you might feel like you’re ready before you actually are.

“I trust the process with the trainers, the head coach. I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t playing Week 1, but we’re here now. I can’t be more thankful for the opportunity to go out there and play.”

And, to be clear, the Seahawks need him. Dickson steps into a tight end rotation featuring a player who missed last week’s game with a nagging back injury (Nick Vannett), a guy who has yet to make a catch this season (Darrell Daniels), a converted quarterback who was initially signed to the practice squad two weeks ago (Tyrone Swoopes) and a recently converted offensive tackle (George Fant). The team’s rising rookie starter, Will Dissly, is out for the season with a patellar tendon injury.

And yet, somehow, the 3-3 Seahawks have survived Dickson’s absence.

Now that he’s back, what can the veteran provide?

“Ed’s going to be crucial for the rest of the season,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I think that he’s a very, very physical player. He’s smart. He wants to learn as much as possible. He’s always asking questions.

“We got extra work yesterday before and after practice. He loves the details. He’s fun to be around. He’s a championship-style player. He’s played on some great football teams.”

It’s unclear, at this point, whether the 2018 Seahawks can be one of them.

Or, more to the point, what Dickson’s role will actually be.

“He’s done a lot of stuff,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “In the offense they were in at Carolina, (the Panthers were) very creative with what they did with their tight ends and he was involved with all kinds of stuff. He’s been placed all over the field. He’s been in the backfield, he’s been out of the backfield, so all of that really gives us confidence. There’s stuff that we can do with him that we’re looking forward to, but really he has not practiced with us very much.

“We’re kind of opening up the Christmas present here. It’s kind of fun to get him going.”

It’ll be even more fun, of course, if the veteran tight end — who has accumulated 178 catches, 1,985 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in eight NFL seasons —  can provide a dash of déjà vu. In a 27-24 Ravens victory over the Lions last season, Dickson finished with five catches for 175 yards.

The Seahawks (3-3) travel to Detroit to meet the Lions (3-3) on Sunday.

And while a sequel is unlikely, Dickson says he’s ready to (finally) prove his worth.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in probably nine years,” Dickson said. “You give a player like myself time to lift and run and mentally get prepared, and I feel like I might be in the best shape of any player in the NFL right now. I just have to go out there and prove it.

“Game shape is different than training shape. I know I need to get back in that game shape and get on the same page with my quarterback and the rest of the offensive guys. I take every opportunity I can every minute I can in the day to try to get that.”

So, yes, Dickson currently finds himself in unfamiliar territory.

But come 10 a.m. on Sunday, he’ll be back where he belongs.

“I haven’t been around these guys and they haven’t seen me play. They haven’t seen me go to battle,” Dickson said. “But it’s familiar. Any place you’re going to go, you have to insert yourself and show them that you’ve got their back and they can count on me.

“I don’t know how big or small my role is going to be, but I’m competing to win. We’re in the thick of things. We’re going after a playoff shot one game at a time. Coach talks about it all the time. So just me being out there and me contributing, I’m happy with that role.”