The first thing Ricardo Lockette said in the Seahawks’ locker room following Sunday night’s loss to Arizona struck a poignant meaning -- given how he looked unconscious laying on the Dallas Cowboys’ field two Sunday before this one.
“It was great to be out here rooting the guys on,” Seattle’s wide receiver and special-teams ace said, 13 days after neck surgery in Texas to fix disc and ligament damage. “If I can walk, if I can breathe, I will be supporting the Seahawks and supporting my boys.”
He was wearing a neck brace, a smile and a T-shirt depicting his gloved hand formed in the shape of an “L” -- the same signal he gave his teammates, the AT&T Stadium crowd and a national-television audience Nov. 1 while he was getting stretchered off the field to a Dallas hospital. It stands for “Love our brothers,” a reassurance for his teammates.
Just before Sunday’s kickoff he helped 91-year-old Congressional Gold Medal honoree Clayton Pitre, a 91-year-old Congressional Gold Medal honoree who was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps in World War II, raise the team’s "12th Man" flag. It was the Seahawks’ annual "Salute to Service" game.
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The crowd roared seeing Lockette on the platform next to the flag pole overlooking the south end zone.
”Amazing. Euphoric,” Lockette said of the ovation. “To have that many people cheer for you and care for you who have been praying for you is something further than my dreams could reach. I am forever in debt for that. It was one of the best days of my life.
”It’s always great to know that people care about you. Sometimes people don’t let you know until it’s too late -- when you’re gone,” he said. “It’s amazing to feel that love and appreciation from people you obviously haven’t met before.”
Lockette’s season is over -- he went on injured reserve Saturday -- and the Seahawks don’t know for sure whether the 29-year old will be able to play next year or again. But Lockette says that’s a yes.
”For sure. For sure,” he said. “I am a rock star.”
Not only does he expect to play again, he said “I expect to be a Pro Bowler.
”This is a real-life walk in the park for me. A little dinged up in the neck. I will be all right.”
Lockette described his feelings as he was initially motionless, then able to move his hands and arms, then strapped to a stretcher with his helmet still on Nov. 1. That was after Dallas safety Jeff Heath hit him just below the chin in the open field during a Seahawks punt. He went straight to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, had surgery on his neck the next day that lasted more than five hours, then was released from the hospital three days later. He flew back to the Seattle area in a private plane early last week and was hugging teammates in the locker room after practices as they prepared to play the Cardinals.
”It was one of the craziest things I have ever been a part of,” he said. “You can’t feel your legs. You can’t feel your arms. You can’t really respond. You don’t really know what is going to happen in the next couple of seconds. You don’t know if you are going to blackout. You don’t know if you are ever going to get feeling back in your body. You don’t know if this is it.
”You just have a really blank mind, and then all the important things start to matter. You start thinking about your family (his parents were at the game in Dallas and were with him at the hospital there). You start thinking about, ‘Am I ever going to see my kids again?’ Just the important stuff.
”The crazy thing is, once I got my voice back and could talk again all I cared about was winning the game.”
The Seahawks did, 13-12, while he was at the hospital.
”I have to wear (the neck brace) for about six weeks. Then I will start rehabbing,” Lockette said. “Once that is done, we will hit the weight room full speed.”
After the game, quarterback Russell Wilson addressed the media wearing a T-shirt matching the one Lockette wore Sunday night.
”I usually try to dress all whatever -- fancy, I guess,” Wilson said. “But this was thinking about Ricardo. This game’s a lot bigger than football. He’s a true friend.
”We just love him to death. We cherish him. We cherish who he is. I’m just praying that he continues to heal and continues to stay positive. He’s one of the best guys I know.”