Seattle Seahawks

Graham’s return to relevance; Baldwin rolls on, meets with Kaepernick

Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham celebrates his second-quarter touchdown catch against the 49ers on Sunday. Graham finished with six receptions for 100 yards.
Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham celebrates his second-quarter touchdown catch against the 49ers on Sunday. Graham finished with six receptions for 100 yards. jbessex@gateline.com

Jimmy Graham laughed while talking postgame to Seahawks owner Paul Allen.

Then the $40 million tight end walked from the center of the locker room at CenturyLink Field through a door into a side room off-limits to the media. He was still in full uniform and pads.

Given how well Sunday’s 37-18 rout over San Francisco went for Graham and the Seahawks offense, maybe he just wanted to keep playing.

He’s usually reluctant to speak to the press, often politely declining to talk at his locker. Maybe this time he didn’t want to be approached about his return to relevance in Seattle’s offense with his first touchdown since Sept. 27, 2015, two days short of a full year ago.

Graham seemed back in the forefront of the Seahawks’ minds and plans in his third game back from a torn patellar tendon in his knee on Nov. 29. He had six catches on seven targets for 100 yards — in Sunday’s first half. That was two more catches and two more targets than Graham had in the first two games combined.

“He was on it this week,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Every intention — he wanted to have this kind of impact in the game.

“It’s thrilling to see him.”

In the first half, quarterback Russell Wilson seemed to remember what Graham can do for him and the Seahawks. The quarterback did something he’s rarely had time to do in Graham’s two, truncated seasons with Seattle: He just chucked the ball up for the 6-foot-7 former University of Miami basketball player to go get.

It was on a free play, after San Francisco jumped offsides on a second-quarter snap. But the lesson is one Wilson can use throughout this season now that Graham is all the way back. Graham leaped and ripped the ball from San Francisco’s Eric Reid for a 40-yard gain. That set up Steven Hauschka’s 33-yard field goal to make it 24-3 for Seattle at halftime.

“He’s like 6-9. Just throw it up to him,” Wilson said about Graham.

“Just give him a chance. And he came down with it. That was huge.”

And different.

Last week, on third-and-goal at the 2 against the Rams, Wilson never even looked to Graham’s side of the field. He threw to the opposite side incomplete to a covered Jermaine Kearse in the end zone. That was the closest the Seahawks got to scoring a touchdown in the 9-3 loss at Los Angeles.

“Blessed to feel alive again,” Graham posted on his Twitter account after Sunday’s victory. “Thank you 12, my boys and coaches for always believing I'd make it back bigger and stronger! #GoHawks

BALDWIN ROLLS ON

Doug Baldwin continues to show that the four-year, $46 million contract extension he signed this spring may end up being a bargain for Seattle.

On Sunday, last season’s franchise record-setter and NFL co-leader with 14 touchdown receptions caught his first TD pass from someone other than Wilson since his rookie year in 2011.

Undrafted rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin found Baldwin outside Paul Richardson on a 16-yard pass early in the fourth quarter after Wilson went out with a sprained knee.

Baldwin finished with a career-high 164 yards on eight catches. The receptions were one off his career best set in the opener against Miami.

The previous week, a sprained knee and back spasms made him feel, as he said in the tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, “like crap.”

“I got pretty banged up last week,” he said. “And I’m fortunate enough that our great training and medical staff, they put together a great rehab program for me.”

Baldwin’s 20 catches and 276 yards and two touchdowns are all career highs through the first three games of a season — by three receptions, 99 yards and one score. He is second in the NFC in receptions this season, one behind Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans.

BALDWIN, KAEPERNICK TALK — NOT ABOUT FOOTBALL

Baldwin talked to San Francisco backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick before the game, and again on the field after it.

Last month, Kaepernick began sitting and then kneeling during national anthems as part of a call for change in society’s relationship with police. Other players have followed suit.

Last week, Baldwin said he was demanding that all 50 state attorneys general review police policies and training.

“Obviously that was a private conversation, so I’ll keep it between us,” Baldwin said of Kaepernick.

“The reason you are asking me this question is because Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. And regardless of what people want to say about it disrespecting the military or the country or whatever it may be, he shed light on an issue that needed to be revealed. So now we’re having this conversation.

“I’m fortunate enough and glad enough that he did that.”

Kaepernick took a knee during Sunday’s anthem, flanked at midfield on the 49ers sideline by teammates Eli Harold and Eric Reid.

“It’s definitely sparked a discussion,” Kaepernick said after the game. “But that’s not what the goal is. The goal is to create change. … We have a long ways to go.”

Baldwin and the Seahawks — for the third consecutive anthem —interlocked arms with all standing along their sideline.

EXTRA POINTS

Seattle running back Thomas Rawls was inactive with the leg he bruised the previous week at L.A. But Carroll said he and rookie right guard Germain Ifedi (high-ankle sprain) have good chances to play this coming weekend at the New York Jets. … The only clouds (besides Wilson’s injury) to this otherwise sunny Seahawks Sunday: More penalties. Six in all, five in the first half, for 50 lost yards. The 14-play drive to Christine Michael’s second rushing touchdown of the first half came despite two holding penalties and a false-start flag. … Tyler Lockett returned three punts for 70 yards, with two fair catches, one week after he sprained his knee. The second-year wide receiver had far fewer snaps on offense and did not have a catch. Seattle had Paul Richardson back to return kickoffs, to spare Lockett that additional task. Carroll marveled that Lockett was even on the field.

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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