Kam Chancellor did for the defense what Marshawn Lynch did for the offense: Intimidated Seahawks opponents into a perpetual cringe with their ferocity.
In the heyday of the Seahawks — heyday being a term typically designating the past — one element of football delivered by two players defined the Seahawks as a team opponents did not want to play. The element was ferocity. The delivery guys were RB Marshawn Lynch and SS Kam Chancellor.
There are no advanced metrics for what they brought. At least, I have not seen comparatives on bruises per square foot, cringes per play, or carnage per foot-pound. Nor do I think the virtue is particularly coachable. Players don’t reach the NFL if they aren’t tough, but “tough” is an industry baseline. What Lynch and Chancellor offered was innate, peak menace.
Injuries caused both to move on from the Seahawks. GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are unlikely to obtain their equivalents. As with rare-earth metals, discoveries are infrequent.
Chancellor announced Sunday on social media that his week-nine neck injury is ending his playing career. He didn’t use the word retirement because there are issues to be resolved over the final two years of his contract that contain guaranteed money in spite of injury. But he is done playing.
“I’ve played through all types of bruises and injuries at a high level, but this one I just can’t ignore,” Chancellor wrote. “My final test showed no healing.’’
Gods Grace 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/60J2DugpD1
— Kameron Chancellor (@KamChancellor) July 1, 2018
The news was no surprise; Seahawks bosses knew the injury likely was career-ending not long after he made an ordinary tackle of Cardinals RB Andre Ellington in the final two minutes of a 22-16 victory at Arizona. Since then, he’s had numerous tests and re-tests, but no results suggested he could return to play without serious potential health consequences.
Still, the finality remains a shock in Seattle because Chancellor, as Lynch, had an aura of indestructibility. It’s like the feeling as a child when you learn that Superman can handle everything but kryptonite.
And as Lynch, Chancellor’s closure was not far from his career apex. He turned 30 in April; Lynch was 30 when he tweeted during the Super Bowl a photo of his football cleats hanging from a wire. Lynch, of course, took a one-year hiatus; but his time since with his hometown Raiders has not been as distinguished. More reasons the players say NFL stands for Not For Long.
Numerous players possess talents that can make foes apprehensive about the match-ups. No defensive lineman wants to chase Russell Wilson. No defensive back wants to get embarrassed by Antonio Brown. No offensive lineman wants to block Aaron Donald.
But dread . . . now that is another level. The idea of meeting Lynch or Chancellor at top speed, in the open field, is what spoils Saturday night’s sleep in the fancy Seattle hotel room the night before the game.
In his new book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, DE Michael Bennett explained the fear factor with Lynch:
When he is really motoring I see linebackers and safeties make ‘business decisions’ to whiff on tackles instead of letting Marshawn hit them . . . The on-field charisma carries over to our locker room. His vibe is so intense that when he leaves the room you feel the void. When I walk past where his locker used to be, it’s like I feel his ghost. It’s beautiful and creepy.
Of Chancellor, Bennett wrote:
He is central to why they call our secondary the Legion of Boom, because when Kam hits you, you stay hit: He has linebacker size and safety speed.
Teammates on both sides of the ball picked up on the ferocity of the leader to the point where they assumed some of the quality of intimidation by osmosis. After the Seahawks’ 31-17 over the Carolina in the 2015 playoffs, CB Richard Sherman explained it.
“He’s a freaking monster,” Sherman said. “Kam Chancellor damages people’s souls. He plays in a dark place. We feed off him, all game long. He’s an intimidator, an aggressive ballplayer who plays by the rules.”
That Panthers game may have been Chancellor’s greatest. He had 10 tackles, returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown and on consecutive plays hurdled the Panthers’ long snapper in attempts to block field goals.
“I don’t know that a strong safety can have a better game than Kam had,” Carroll said. “He was all over the place.”
Chancellor and Lynch are way different personalities, but the distinction was irrelevant to their commonalities of fearlessness and power that radiated dominance. Carroll and
Schneider believe the Seahawks can still be good in 2018, and that may be true. But there’s no indication yet that the they are possessed of the badassery that defined the Seahawks’ earlier success.
Upon hearing the news about Chancellor, 49ers GM John Lynch tweeted a salute:
Kam, Congratulations on a tremendous career! You established a presence in the heart of those great defenses in Seattle that was felt throughout the league. Your toughness and physicality was as important to those defenses as anything or anyone. I salute you. God Bless! https://t.co/NuMZh1kn53
— John Lynch (@JohnLynch49ers) July 2, 2018
Left unsaid but well understood was that he and his coaches no longer have to game-plan to keep Chancellor from shredding the 49ers. Lynch can watch a Seahawks game cringe-free.