L.J. Collier said all the right things on Friday.
During a Zoom call with local media, the Seahawks 2019 first-round pick explained the plights of his rookie season and anticipation for what he believes is coming in 2020.
Collier’s first NFL campaign, for all intents, was over before it started. A significant ankle sprain on July 30 cost him the entire month of August. Missing all of those reps in training camp and preseason games set him back to a degree in which he was never able to recover from.
Beyond that, at no point in 2019 did Collier’s ankle get back to 100%. The result? Just three tackles in 11 games. Additionally, he was a healthy scratch in both playoff games.
But now Collier is fully healthy once again with essentially a fresh start following somewhat of a redshirt year as a rookie.
“With the team we have, you can’t help but be excited,” Collier said.
According to Collier, Seattle drafted him to fill a Michael Bennett-type role where he will play defensive end on early downs before moving inside to 3-tech in nickel. The Seahawks, to this point at least, have been unable to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, or any other premier pass rusher for that matter.
That leaves reps open for the taking if Collier is able to prove himself worthy this summer.
“The name of the game is to stay healthy, and you need those reps,” he said. “I’m going to be there, and I’m going to get every rep I can possibly get, whether it’s at 3-technique or whether it’s end. I just want to play, honestly.”
John Schneider and Pete Carroll have defended Collier at every turn. They are counting on their 2019 first-rounder to bounce back and contribute in 2020. However, there’s a contingent of fans who have already labeled Collier a bust.
Calling any player a bust after just one down season, injury-related or otherwise, is unfair. But Collier didn’t give people even a single glimpse of his potential, either, which has understandably limited most expectations of him.
Collier is on social media. He’s seen the comments from his naysayers. As cliché as it might be, the proverbial chip is sitting comfortably on his shoulder heading into Year 2.
“I am champing at the bit to get out there,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you didn’t have the year everyone wanted you to (have). They shift you off to the side as if you can’t play. It’s disrespectful, and I feel very disrespected. But, I’m the type of person where there’s no need for talking, just show them.
“If you run through a couple people; if you make noise, they’ll remember who you are very quickly.”
Collier is confident in his ability to rush the passer and stop the run. Seattle is counting on him to do both this season.
“I’m excited to get back out there and show people who I am,” Collier said. “I don’t really care about the first-round pick stuff. I’m a football player at the end of the day, and I can play football at a high level. I’m out there to prove that I’m one of the best.
“At the end of the day, it’s time to eat.”
Be sure to check out the latest Talkin' Seahawks Podcast with host Joe Fann and legendary running back Curt Warner.