Shaquem Griffin’s popularity among NFL and Seahawks fans, so evident in the emotion created from his drafting by the Seahawks in April, recently received even more validation.
In a recent list of the top 50 NFL players in terms of sales of official league merchandise from March 1-May 31, Griffin was ranked 43rd, behind only one other Seahawk – quarterback Russell Wilson.
He was one of just four rookies on the list, the others being high-first round picks Baker Mayfield, Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold.
But if he’s the rare fifth-round pick whose jersey is available for purchase by fans as they walk to the field to watch training camp at the VMAC, Griffin says he isn’t taking for granted that his role on the Seahawks’ roster is secure.
“Definitely not,” Griffin said Friday in his first media availability of training camp when asked if he feels like he has shown he belongs in the NFL. “I’ve got a lot to prove. I’ve got to prove myself every single day. I’m never going to get comfortable with where I’m at. I’m blessed and happy to be here but the work is not done. It’s far from done.”
Proof that progress is being made, though, came at the end of Friday’s practice when Griffin briefly replaced veteran K.J. Wright with the starting defense at weakside linebacker.
The series only lasted a few plays but to Griffin it was another step in his adjustment to the NFL.
“Me being out there (with the ones) I kind of got a feel for how everything is going,” Griffin said.
The publicity and attention his drafting received for his perseverance in overcoming a birth defect that left him with just one hand as well as being reunited with twin brother Shaquill compelled coach Pete Carroll to have a little talk with Shaquem Griffin once he arrived in Seattle.
“Really wasn’t worried about it, but was aware of it right from the start trying to keep him level-headed and making sure that he’s in connection with what he needs to focus on,” Carroll said Friday. “There is a lot going on, a fantastic story. But right now he needs to play football and be all over it. So we’ve addressed it right from the start.”
If the NFL has taken advantage of Griffin’s popularity to cash in, Griffin himself has intentionally taken a low profile since draft weekend, turning down numerous media requests and mostly doing only what the team has asked.
He moved into an apartment close to the VMAC with Shaquill with the two also getting a puppy – a 5-month-old Blue French Bulldog named Tank.
Shaquem joked Friday that Shaquill – in his second year with the Seahawks – is mad that the two new additions have used up all the space in his apartment.
“We’ve kind of taken over right now,” Shaquem said with a laugh (though during training camp Shaquem is rooming at the team hotel with fellow rookie Tre Flowers).
What has mostly occupied Shaquem’s time, though, is learning a new position.
After playing mostly on the edge at Central Florida, Griffin is playing inside linebacker with the Seahawks, working behind Wright on the weakside.
It’s a decision the Seahawks made when he was drafted, and one they have seen no reason to change through the offseason program and the first week of training camp.
“His size doesn’t allow him to really be a defensive end kind of guy,” Carroll said Friday of Griffin, listed at 6-foot, 227. “He’s a linebacker, former DB more than anything else. So he’s the kind of guy you like to move around and take advantage of his speed. He’s very instinctual, and he’s been a very aggressive player so far. He’s doing very well.”
Griffin, though, won’t beat out Wright this season (though with Wright entering the last year of his contract and no extension currently in sight, he could be setting himself up to be the starter down the road). But he will play on special teams, with special teams coach Brian Schneider saying a few days ago that “he’s on all of them.”
And Carroll’s reference to moving Griffin around may mean the team will also search for ways to get him on the field situationally or in sub packages to take advantage of not only his speed but the kind of playmaking ability the Seahawks raved about when drafting him.
That attribute has been on display in camp, notably in forcing a fumble by tight end Nick Vannett in a team session and then an interception of Wilson in a seven-on-seven drill.
Griffin said he took some pride in the interception because it came on a play he had been beaten on earlier. One of the Seahawks’ mantras to their rookies is to not make the same mistake twice, “so I make sure I emphasize on that,” Griffin said. “Anything I mess up on I make sure I don’t do it the next play.”
There will inevitably be more mess-ups. But while Griffin says he has a lot to prove, he thinks he’s also begun to prove a few things.
“I just pay attention to what my coaches are telling me, and I just follow the footsteps of the guys in front of me,” he said. “Me doing that, I’m making more and more plays, and the only thing I need to do is keep doing what I’m doing.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.