DK Metcalf is using a binkie in his first NFL games.
It’s a funny sight, the Seahawks’ 6-foot-4, 229-pound wide receiver hulking over much smaller defenders while sucking on a baby-blue, pacifier-like mouthguard.
“Just trying to show my personality a little bit. Trying to make the game fun,” Metcalf said. “I’m a rookie, so I’m a baby in the league. So I got a little binkie.”
They are made by Battle Sports Science, a 10-year-old company based in Omaha, Neb.
“I’ve known the guy (from Battle) since high school,” said Metcalf, a native of Oxford, Miss., who wore a pink mouth guard playing college football at Mississippi through last season.
Metcalf is a baby in terms of NFL experience — and mouthwear.
But he’s been all man as Seattle’s starting split end so far, entering his third Seahawks game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (1-1) at CenturyLink Field.
The 21-year-old, whom quarterback Russell Wilson has compared to LeBron James for his competitiveness and trash talking on the field, scored his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s game at Pittsburgh. Those proved to be the decisive points in Seattle’s 28-26 win.
True to his eye-catching size and flashy mouthpiece, the touchdown catch was not mundane. Wilson’s throw down the left sideline to the covered rookie was perfect, 40 yards onto Metcalf’s hands. But Metcalf bobbled the ball in the end zone to himself before securing the score.
He has physically dominated cornerbacks and safeties from the Cincinnati Bengals and the Steelers at times. Truly dominated them. Last weekend in Seattle’s rally to beat the Steelers Metcalf grabbed the face mask of Pittsburgh cornerback Steven Nelson while running a sideline pass pattern. Then Metcalf bulldozed the shorter (by 5 inches) and lighter (by 35 pounds) Nelson to the ground as the pass from Russell Wilson sailed past them.
“DK had two in one play,” coach Pete Carroll said this week while lamenting how many penalties the offense has had this season.
At times, officials are like the rest of us — paying closer attention to the Seahawks’ No. 14 because he’s just so large. He runs a giraffe among a bunch of 5-foot-11 zebras in the opposing secondary.
The flags are a part of Metcalf’s learning on the fly in the NFL.
“We have to work with him, so he doesn’t get penalized because he looks so dominant at times physically on guys,” Carroll said. “He’s got to be good at it. He’s got to be really good at keeping his hands inside and doing that.”
The penalties are the only things his coach minds about Metcalf’s first two pro games.
On the first play for the Seahawks offense against the Steelers, Wilson threw a short pass left to Metcalf. The rookie then ran over one defender, then another, before Nelson finally dragged him down after a self-made, 16-yard gain.
Carroll says he can see the growth in the huge Metcalf from Week 1 to Week 2, and in the regular season from training camp.
No one would know the rookie who calls himself “Wolverine,” after the Marvel Comics superhero that has supernatural healing powers, had knee surgery a month ago.
“Well, look at him on the catch he made when he runs through the first tackle and runs through the second tackle. He’s going to break some plays just like that,” Carroll said. “He’ll stay on his feet and he’ll keep on running. That’s one of them.
“The other thing is he’s a really good blocker. He’s just so strong and he has the arm length to maintain space. ... He already stands out as an effective guy that should really help us over the long haul.”
What has Metcalf thought of his first NFL games?
“How fun it is,” he said. “It’s just like playing in college. I’m happy for my teammates every time they score or get a first down. My energy level is just like playing back in college.”
Metcalf’s primary surprise so far is one many rookies describe in their first month or two in the league.
“Pretty much the speed of the game,” he said. “I’m catching on to it a little bit better each week. I’m trying to get a little bit better every week with the team, learn new stuff from different DBs that I’m facing.
“So, I think it’s surprising that I’m picking up the game a little better each week.”
There is something else Metcalf is learning: how much time an NFL player has in a day compared to a collegian.
“I’ve got a lot more time now that I don’t have class anymore,” he said. “(Veteran teammates) Bobby (Wagner), Russ and Duane Brown really helped me adjust to that. They told me to find a hobby or try to take care of your body any chance you get. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.”
His new hobby is in music.
Make that was in music.
“Well, I tried to learn how to play the guitar. That didn’t work,” he said, specifying he tried electric guitar. “So, back to playing Fortnite.”
Asked why playing electric guitar didn’t work for him, Metcalf had a simple answer many 21-year-olds just out of college would have.
“Too much learning,” he said.