RENTON — Shaquem Griffin is one of the most life-affirming examples offered up by professional sports of the human capacity for overcoming obstacles to reach one’s goals.
So maybe his approach to his new role with the Seahawks — trying to rush the passer off the edge at a listed 227 pounds — shouldn’t be surprising.
Griffin hints he may actually weigh a little less than 227, saying “that’s the weight I came in at’’ when asked if it’s accurate. He spent this offseason trying to lose weight.
Whatever his exact weight, the role the Seahawks debuted for him at San Francisco often pits him against offensive linemen who may tip the scales at 100 pounds heavier.
“He’s just not very big,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “You have to do special things with him.’’
Griffin — who overcame losing his left hand when he was 4 due to amniotic band syndrome to forge a career as a professional football player — notes that in his role as a pass rusher, the goal is to run by the offensive linemen and not through them. It puts one of his greatest strengths — speed, which was illustrated in the memorable 4.38-second 40-yard dash he ran at the 2018 combine — to maximum use.
“I don’t think weight really matters to me because I shouldn’t be fighting hands to hands with them,’’ he said. “If I am, I’m not doing something right. So my whole thing is don’t get grabbed, don’t get touched.’’
Griffin played 14 snaps Nov. 11 and didn’t record an official stat — no tackles, and no pressures as recorded by football analytic site Pro Football Focus.
But his 14 snaps (13 official and another on a play nullified by a penalty) came in a game in which the Seahawks played the best defense they have all season, holding the 49ers, who had been tearing up the NFL, to 302 yards in a game that went as long as an NFL game can — 70 minutes.
No one seems to think that was a coincidence.
“It was a good shot in the arm for the group to have a young, fast guy to come in there and just be a guy that comes off the ball really hard,’’ Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said.
It was a long time coming for Griffin. His selection by the Seahawks might have been the highlight of the 2018 draft.
Griffin had begun to fall out of the spotlight this season, not playing a single defensive snap until Nov. 11, and only nine since the first game of 2018, when he filled in for injured K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker.
But with the season on the line, and the Seahawks looking for anything to rejuvenate a defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL, Carroll decided to unleash Griffin as an edge rusher, essentially replacing Ziggy Ansah, who signed a one-year deal last May worth up to $9 million.
Griffin and Ansah played 14 snaps against the 49ers.
“It was a little game-plan thing,’’ Carroll said of the division of the snaps. “We weren’t in a lot of those situations to rush the passer. Also, we’ve got to look at Shaquem and make some time. It’s just about reps and competing.”
Carroll and Norton said to expect Griffin to continue as an edge rusher, the spot where he excelled during his Central Florida career, recording 18½ sacks.
Griffin played last year as backup weakside linebacker, a position that maybe didn’t make the best use of his skills. This year he’s been backup strongside linebacker behind Mychal Kendricks. That spot calls for some pass rushing and coverage. But Kendricks has simply been hard to compete with for playing time.
Griffin has been willing to do whatever it takes but admits that being asked to be an edge rusher again is exciting.
“I felt way comfortable being able to rush the edge and being able to talk trash to the big guys,’’ he said.
As Griffin put it, the big guys don’t expect a small guy like him to talk much trash.
Not playing hasn’t been easy, especially given the hype that greeted his entry to the NFL. But don’t take that for impatience. Griffin said he understands it might take him a little while to break in to the lineup.
“I mean, my whole thing is I don’t play the game just for somebody to tell me how good I am or what I’m doing,’’ he said. “I play the game because I enjoy it. … There are a lot of things you can complain about, but there’s no reason to complain here. You are in a good spot, you are around great people, you are around a great coaching staff, and when you come to work you are having fun. So it’s like, me complaining about that (not playing), that’s just me being selfish on my part.”