RENTON — When Tyler Lockett is reminded that he is now No. 1 in terms of continuous service time on the Seahawks, he says jokingly, “You’re making me feel old.”
In football years, 29 can seem ancient. And seven going on eight years with one organization, in a sport that is constantly churning personnel, can be an eternity. So it’s undeniable that Lockett has entered the wise, old-head stage of his Seahawks career, particularly with the departures of elder statesmen Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson in the offseason.
With such seniority comes responsibility, which Lockett has earned through his consistently excellent performance and which he fully embraces. But he also knows he must walk a fine line to assert that leadership while staying true to who he is.
“It’s a lot different with Russ and Bobby gone,” Lockett said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “Mentally you feel like you have to step up. You feel like you’ve got to fill in the gaps and those voids that are going to be missing.
“But for me I just try to continue to be myself. I don’t try to put extra pressure on myself. Because sometimes I can mentally put these blocks on myself to where it hinders me from being able to be my best. I feel like bringing myself to the table is enough to be able to help out this team.”
Lockett has always been exceedingly thoughtful about the mental side of the game — and of life, for that matter. It’s a huge reason he’s lasted as long as he has while continuing to get steadily better. Lockett is coming off his third consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, achieving a career-high 1,175 yards in 2021 while being sometimes overlooked in favor of the flashier DK Metcalf. The Seahawks would gladly take another slice of that same performance, regardless of who winds up at quarterback.
“All I want to stick to is just be Tyler,” he said. “Some days I’m not talkative. Some days I’m extra talkative. Some days I’m a comedian. Some days I’m super serious. But I just try to figure out how I can be the best at whatever today approaches in how I want to be able to achieve it.”
Lockett developed a rapport with Wilson that can come only from years of repetitions. But he will have to hasten that process with whomever emerges as Wilson’s replacement.
That could be Drew Lock, of whom Lockett said, “He just has that type of calmness about himself to where he knows what he can do. He’s making the throws, regardless of where the DB is. He made a couple of really great deep-ball throws last week before we had this break.”
That could be Geno Smith, who Lockett described as “having that fire in his eyes. He has that look that he wants to be able to go out there and do great. He hadn’t had the chance to be able to play in a couple of years. And so when you have that opportunity right there front of you, what else do you need?”
It could be someone not even on the roster yet, such as Baker Mayfield. The answers won’t come during limited-contact OTAs, which were described variously Tuesday as “the underwear Olympics” by defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt and “football preschool” by safety Ryan Neal.
But it’s the start of the process of honing chemistry, which will have to be accelerated during training camp. One advantage, Lockett said, is that the returning players now have a fuller understanding of Shane Waldron’s offense in Year 2.
“I think that’s also helping us being able to understand the terminology, the lingo, understanding concepts, how to get open, when to be able to put extra sauce on it, when not to be able to put sauce on it and just to run it regular,” Lockett said. “It’s helping us prepare.”
Lockett said he hasn’t been part of a full-blown quarterback competition since high school, and both QBs ended up splitting time that year. It’s safe to say that won’t happen in Seattle, but Lockett is confident in his ability to adjust to the eventual winner of the competition. He points out he did that when he joined the Seahawks as a rookie and was required to fit in with Wilson’s style.
“I played with Russ for seven years,” he said. “So I had to learn how to adjust to be able to understand how he thinks so we can all be on the same page. And I’m sure he had to adjust me as well. … Everything is really just about adjustments and trying to be able to figure out what is it that I need to do, and what is it that I need to bring.
“I love to see it (the quarterback battle), because sometimes we’ve got to remember that this is a business, and business does want that competitive nature,” he said. “We do want that competitive edge, being able to compete each and every day, to sharpen iron and iron. I think that helps us feel something truly special.”
Lockett returned to camp this week as not only Seattle’s newly crowned Male Sports Star of the Year, awarded over the weekend, but a recent Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Long Feature. That went to his NFL 360 feature, “Through The Ashes: The Story of Black Wall Street’’ that tells the story of the Black Wall Street Massacre of 1921 in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Honestly, it feels really great,” Lockett said. “It’s just hard to be able to celebrate it because we’re still waiting for reparations. We’re still waiting for justice. As far as the city of Tulsa that I grew up in, we can’t even accept the fact that something happened. It was swept under the rug.
“So it’s just kind of hard to be able to truly appreciate it. Because there’s three survivors still alive. They’re still going to court trying to fight for justice, just to have the city say, ‘We were wrong, here’s your reparations.’ And until we get that, I can’t really, truly shout for joy and be happy and walk around and say, ‘Man, I won an Emmy.’ “
Spoken like the wise “old man” of the Seahawks.