Chris Clemons in perspective


Defensive end Chris Clemons has retired. Even though it has been two years since he’s played in a Seahawks uniform, his impact on the team can still be felt.

Defensive end Chris Clemons informed the Seattle Seahawks yesterday of his intent to retire. The former star was a long-shot to make the final 53 man roster, so his decision wasn’t completely surprising.

This came on the eve of reporting day for training camp, and just two days before the teams first practice. He certainly waited until the last second to make his decision. Doing so, and skipping all the “optional” portions of the offseason program, signaled that his heart is simply no longer in it.

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Clemons leave behind a legacy that will always be under appreciated. Not only was he brilliant on the field, but he was instrumental in getting Pete Carroll’s defensive system installed and built in the early days on the new regime.

Clemons, more than any other player, represented Seattle’s new defensive scheme. He was the “LEO.” That position went from being something no one had ever heard of to being a staple of any football discussion. Suddenly every undersized speed rusher was a “LEO,” no matter the system they played in.

Clemons was one of the first players brought in by Pete Carroll and John Schneider after they took over the Seahawks. To get him, they had to trade away Darryl Tapp. Tapp was three years younger and was a much more proven commodity.

Tapp had 18 sacks in four years with the Seahawks. Clemons had 20 sacks in five seasons with Washington, Oakland and Philadelphia. Basically, Seattle traded a away a younger starter for an older journeyman backup.

All Clemons did was lead the Seahawks in sacks for three straight seasons. From 2010-2012, he collected 33.5 sacks, and was one of the most efficient and productive pass rushers in the NFL.

The trade turned out to be a massive victory for Seattle. It was also the first glimpse into the scouting expertise of John Schneider. Here was a diamond that that everyone else believed was just a rock.

Any idea that Clemons was just a product of Carroll’s defensive system disappeared in the 2012 season when Clemons tore his ACL in the playoffs. Without Clemons, the Seahawks couldn’t get any pressure on Atlanta’s Matt Ryan whatsoever, and were ultimately eliminated from the postseason tournament.

That injury was also the beginning of the end for Clemons in Seattle. The Seahawks signed two defensive ends (Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril) in the offseason. Those two would very quickly take over the roles as the team’s primary pass rushers.

Clemons rushed back, and managed to avoid the PUP list in 2013. He missed only two games despite coming back from a major injury, but he never regained the explosiveness that made him dominant before.

Clemons finished with only 4.5 sacks in 2013. After the team’s dominant Super Bowl victory over Denver, he was quietly released.

Ultimately, Clemons’ legacy in Seattle will not only be his three dominant seasons, but the leadership he provided in the locker room. People forget that the Seahawks were one of the youngest teams ever to win a Super Bowl.

Clemons was a tremendous force in the locker room. He pushed buttons that needed pushing. He pulled back on reigns that needed pulling. He led by example, and help this young team learn what it meant to be professionals.

Perhaps most importantly, Clemons provided a necessary leadership bridge. Carroll and Schneider purged the roster of all the terrible contracts they inherited. In doing so, most of the previous locker room leaders left town.

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Clemons helped fill that void. In doing so, he provided time for players like Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner to grown into the leaders they are now.

His time in Seattle may have been short , but Chris Clemons was a key part in turning the Seahawks into a champion. For that, I will always be grateful.