RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Before the first regular-season game of his career, cornerback Shaquill Griffin had already earned the respect of the veterans in the Seattle Seahawks locker room.
That’s not the easiest group to gain praise from right away.
“Shaquill is probably one of my favorite rookies ever when it comes to the mental side of the game,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Nothing fazes him. It is pretty incredible for a rookie to come in at that position, to have that amount of poise, that amount of mental strength, he is phenomenal.”
Griffin backed up the praise he received from his teammates in his debut last week. Facing Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, Griffin finished with 10 tackles and didn’t give up any big plays in Seattle’s 17-9 loss to the Packers. He was thrust into an even more prominent role in the defense after cornerback Jeremy Lane was ejected in the first quarter. Suddenly, Griffin wasn’t on the field only when Seattle went with five defensive backs. He was out there all the time opposite Richard Sherman.
Rodgers knew it. The Packers knew it. And Griffin held his own against one of the top offenses in the league.
“He honestly played just like he has been playing,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He had been playing very consistent throughout the preseason and took it right to game time which is really a marvelous thing to see for the coaches.”
Seattle had hoped to get this type of performance from Griffin when it drafted him in the third round out of Central Florida. Seattle needed options at cornerback after Deshawn Shead suffered a torn ACL in the playoff loss to Atlanta last January. And they needed someone with the right mentality — and confidence — to handle the attention that comes with being on the opposite side of the field from Sherman.
It’s not an easy assignment. But so far Griffin has passed all of his tests.
The most important for Seattle’s coaching staff came in the second preseason game against Minnesota. Almost as if the Seahawks had asked for this to happen, the Vikings spent the majority of the first half ignoring Sherman and making most of their throws toward Griffin’s side of the field.
It was the perfect prerequisite for taking on a more prominent role in the opener against Green Bay.
“I learned a lot. First off the ball is coming to me most of the time,” Griffin said with a chuckle on Wednesday. “Mainly it was just adjusting to the types of pass patterns I was getting. … My main thing was some short little routes. I’d rather have that than them going deep on me. The main thing is not letting them score. I feel like that’s something I’m adjusting to. It was great going against one of the best quarterbacks. That’s a great way to start. … It was perfect and something I can build off of for the rest of the season.”
Griffin’s first game was so productive it even reinforced his film study. Griffin had written in his notes about having to play more “chest-to-chest” against Green Bay receivers because Rodgers liked to make back-shoulder throws. True to his study, Green Bay tried to go that route.
“The ball came to my side and my mindset was to act like the ball is going to come to you every play,” Griffin said. “So I was locked in every play thinking the ball was going to come to my side and that helped me a lot.”
Griffin is still likely to split time with Lane, beginning Sunday against San Francisco. In nickel situations, Lane is expected to move to the slot cornerback and leave Griffin on the outside.
“I want them to understand they can count on me,” Griffin said.
NOTES: RB Thomas Rawls (ankle) was a full participant in practice and is expected to make his season debut Sunday against the 49ers. … CB Richard Sherman (hamstring), LB K.J. Wright (ankle) and LB Terrance Garvin (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. Griffin was a limited participant, listed as having a concussion. LB Michael Wilhoite (calf) was also limited.