SS Kam Chancellor is having himself a milestone off-season: He married longtime girlfriend Tiffany Luce, had bone spurs removed from both ankles on the same day, and apparently is on the verge of a contract extension with the Seahawks.
“I love my life,” he said Monday, grinning. “I love my wife.”
Indeed, it is good to be Kam Chancellor, one of the most well-regarded players and persons in the NFL.
He’s also reaching another, less recognized, milestone that takes on import this week. When he strides upon Lambeau Field in Green Bay Sept. 10 to begin his eighth season as a Seattle Seahawk, he will have survived the brutalities of the NFL middle one more season than a hero of his, Kenny Easley.
From 1981 to 1987, Easley was the epitome of ferocity in the NFL. The three-time All-Pro strong safety was the best there was at the position, a place that was avoided by every offensive coordinator scheming against the Seahawks. To be struck by Easley left a numbness/tingle not unlike lightning.
Easley played so intensely that it shortened his career not only because of injuries, but from the painkillers he used to deal with those injuries. A kidney was so damaged from drugs that it required replacement in 1989. The conflict over responsibility for the grim fate, and the settlement that ended a lawsuit, left him estranged from the Seahawks until 2002.
Enough time has passed that the re-embrace of Easley will climax this weekend with his belated induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. It has particular meaning for Chancellor, 29, because even though he was born the year after Easley retired, both grew up in the same area of Virginia, where Easley and his legend live on.
“It’s big,” Chancellor said after practice. “A guy who played at the level he played at — the ferocious hits, the aggression — and being from the 757 (area code) where I grew up, is very big. He deserves it.”
It may be that Chancellor and Easley someday will share not only an area code and a pro team, but bronze plaques and recognition as the best strong safeties in NFL history.
The other guy in that conversation, Ronnie Lott of the 49ers, is willing to say so.
“Kam Chancellor right now is as good as any safety that’s played in the game of football,” Lott told the News Tribune in 2014. “It’s hard for me to say this, but there was only one guy that I know that’s better and that’s Kenny Easley. He was defensive player of the year (1984) and best player to play the safety position, ever.
“Kam is getting close to being in that community of greatness. And that is hard for me to say because I have the utmost respect for Kenny Easley.”
But Lott, taken by San Francisco with the eighth pick in the first round of the 1981 draft (Easley was taken fourth in the same draft) lasted 14 years and entered the Hall of Fame in 2000. Partly because of the estrangement and partly because of his truncated career, Easley fell off the pro football radar for a long while.
“When I look at Kenny and I look at myself, ” Lott said, “the only thing that separates us is Kenny didn’t get a chance to do it as long. That’s the only thing.”
The matter of longevity came up with Chancellor Tuesday because he and the Seahawks are attempting to work out a contract extension for a guy whose style has put hard miles on the career odometer.
“Of course, I’m not the same as I was as a rookie seven years ago,” he said. “It’s a lot different. Everything changes. Not gonna remain the same forever.”
The candor was disarming. Chancellor cannot run as fast nor hit as hard as he did when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Yet he remains good, and vital — this season for the original Legion of Boom (Chancellor, FS Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sherman) may be its last together.
Chancellor is positive about the chances for a contract extension — “hopefully it’ll get done any time now. It’s been productive,” he said — but then Thomas and Sherman are up next season. Can the Seahawks continue to pay premium salaries for players beyond 30?
It seems unlikely. Which will be a blow to the team, fans and the players themselves.
“We appreciate each other,” Chancellor said. “We appreciate what we do off the field, in the meeting rooms and on the field. We always got each other’s backs. We know where each other is. and what’s he thinking.
“The brotherhood gets tighter and tighter the more years we play together. We’re grateful to play with one another.”
Everyone knows that it cannot last, but when and how the transition occurs is ever awkward and mysterious.
How long does Chancellor want to play?
“As long as the wheels let me — ’til the wheels fall off,” he said. “I can’t put a time frame on how long I can play. How I hold up is how long the Lord and my body allow me to. Not up to me.”
Chancellor can see that the Seahawks may have signed in free agency his successor — 6-1, 215-pound Bradley McDougald, 26, a fifth-year pro out of Kansas via Tampa Bay.
“I see a lot of swagger,” Chancellor said. “He fits right in. He’s one of us. Just watching him without pads, it looks like he’s going to deliver some brutal hits.
“He has the form and mindset for it. He’s very fast and effective.”
But more informed talk of Chancellor’s potential successor is for another year. Chancellor’s wheels and attitude remain. He has been a worthy heir to the Seattle legacy of Easley and has a chance to reach the endurance of Lott.
“The word, old . . .” Chancellor said, pausing. “See, you’re only as old as you feel. I don’t call myself old. I call myself wiser.”
It could be a line from a contract negotiation. It could also be true.