If the Seahawks make the playoffs in 2022, the 38-30 win Sunday in Arizona may well be be seen as the moment when the franchise’s clumsy football fall regained balance. But that potential outcome is a year away, or in covid time, forever.
What is likely to linger from that game is more visceral and vivid — the televised image of tears streaming down the contorted face of FS Quandre Diggs.
A two-time pro Bowl player who, along with LB Bobby Wagner, anchored an improving defense, Diggs this season had a career-high-tying five interceptions, 94 tackles and seven pass breakups.
He also had about 10 minutes left until he reached the threshold of free agency, from where the eight-year veteran, 29 this month, figured to cash in large with Seattle, or another team desperate for his rare resume and leadership.
But as the weight of an Arizona blocker fell upon him, his right fibula broke, and his ankle dislocated. The severity was obvious immediately as teammates gathered, knelt and wept for one of roster’s most respected players.
One of them, CB D.J. Reed, also a free agent-to-be, was struck by the career gravity of the moment.
Said Reed: “He didn’t have to play in that game.”
On exit day Monday, Reed, who was graded by Pro Football Reference as the Seahawks’ top defender for the season, was on video conference with reporters. He couldn’t get Diggs out of his mind.
“We weren’t going to the playoffs,” he said. “Obviously, he’s on the last year of his contract. He’s already had a Pro Bowl season. He’s already put everything that he had to put on tape.
“He literally went out there for his brothers, not to leave us out there, and for the love of the game.”
After the game, as well as Monday, coach Pete Carroll said he thought Diggs would be able to recover from surgery by next season, but offered no specifics on the diagnosis or prognosis.
Nor has there been early talk of a new contract.
“I haven’t talked to him about that, but it should be implicit for us in messaging, because our message has not changed,” Carroll said. “All I can tell you is that he is an awesome part of our team. We would love to have him with us. This injury is not going to be one that is going to keep him from playing. So we just have to go through it.
“Unfortunately, it is a really difficult off-season for him in the first three or four months. But he will get back.”
Everyone understands that players are well-compensated to take the risks (Diggs is finishing at $2.5 million) but that doesn’t diminish the cruelties of the moment.
“Most people don’t understand we really go out there and sacrifice our bodies,” Reed said. “For him to go out there and do that, on the last game at the end of his contract, it’s a testament to him and his love for the game.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to happen to such a good person.”
Anyone who has followed Diggs from his mid-season trade in 2019 from Detroit to Seattle likely understands that Diggs is the least likely guy to make a “business decision” and fake a hamstring strain in order to avoid risking a real injury. The former star at the University of Texas foretold his no-nonsense professionalism during a prescient video interview Dec. 23.
“I have a contractual obligation for three more games and my obligations are to the Seattle Seahawks,” he said. “My job is to go out there every Sunday, go play my role, and do what I do, which is to protect the seams, protect the post, and go get interceptions, like I have been doing since I’ve gotten here.”
At 5-foot-9 and 197 pounds, Diggs this season has not played less than 89 percent of any game’s defensive snaps until Sunday, when he was in for 74 percent, before being carted off the cursed grounds of State Farm Stadium, the site of the last Seattle games for ex-Seahawks stars Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.
Speaking of Thomas, guess who Diggs first texted when he arrived in Seattle?
“When I got here, it was really the first time that I’ve ever played true middle-of-the-field safety, so I had to adjust to that,” he said. “I always wanted to kind of pattern my game after him if I ever played safety. When that opportunity happened, I remember texting him. He was one of the first people I hit up when I got moved to safety and just tried to get some tips.”
As with Thomas, Diggs sought and was denied an extension before the season, only to have injury curtail it. Thomas responded to his injury with a middle finger raised toward Carroll as the All-Pro safety was carted off.
The gesture wasn’t repeated Sunday by Diggs. Nor does there appear to be any contempt for Carroll, no matter the grim seasonal denouement and coincidence.
“He’s been coaching this defense for a long time,” Diggs said Dec. 23. “It’s always a positive for sure to have him walking around, creeping back there. You can tell when he has something he wants to say, because he walks around for a little bit, looks at you, walks off, and then he’ll come back and he’ll say it. He’ll be like, ‘I just wanted to make sure you understood that.’
“It’s been great. We have a great relationship. The way we communicate is really special.”
As the off-season dawns, and the Seahawks consider what to do with their own 15 unrestricted free agents, the late-blooming Rashaad Penny has become the abrupt darling of those who enjoy spending Carroll’s money for him. Deservedly so.
But when he returns to health, Diggs deserves to be 1A behind Penny’s 1. Don’t forget the face, the deeds and the resolve of the little guy in the back.