Bryan Altman, Stacy Rost
Last season Ricardo Lockette suffered a serious neck injury while covering a punt during a Week 8 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys that forced him to miss the rest of the season.
Today, Lockette, who suffered a concussion and disk and ligament damage in his neck, formally announced his retirement as a result of that injury.
“Life goes on,” he said, addressing a packed house of reporters, his teammates and coaches. “You know, I never really wanted to be an Olympic track star or an NFL player. I just wanted to be great. I wanted to be great at something, and I wanted to make my family proud. Hopefully I’ve done that.”
So whatever the next step for me is. I’m not quite sure what it is and I’m not embarrassed to say that, because I feel like I have time. I’m only 29. But I know what I will do, I will dedicate my time to helping those in need.”
Lockette suffered his career-ending injury in a block from Cowboys safety Jeff Heath. He lay on the field, motionless, for several minutes, where he was consoled by players and his coaches. That night, he underwent a five-plus hour surgery to repair the ligaments in his neck.
Weeks later, it became apparent just how serious his injury could have been:
(via ESPN): “[The doctors] said if I would have stood up then, the weight of my head — left, right, front, back — I would have died,” Lockette said in a video he posted on Facebook. “If one of my teammates would have come over and pulled my arm, just barely, I might have died. Or if the returner at the time would have broken a couple tackles, and they would have rolled and fell on me, I would have died on that field. But what saved my life was the trainers, the work that you guys do.”
“You never know when you’re last play will be,” Lockette said Thursday. “You never know.”
Lockette, who told reporters the decision to leave wasn’t a hard one to make because he “loves his family and loves to walk,” is one of many players to see their careers cut short due to injury — or who ended his career to avoid a more serious injury — in recent years. That ever-growing list includes Chris Borland, Jake Locker, A.J. Tarpley, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Adrian Coxson, among others.
Lockette reiterated that the past few weeks haven’t been sad for him — rather, he’s embracing the change.
“To my kids, I hope that your dad my you proud. This last month that I’ve been away from football have been some of the happiest days of my life. Because I’ve been Face-Timing and they come to a game here and there, but it’s a different feeling — it’s a feeling I’ve never felt just to be around them every day and just to see them smile, and to wake up and make breakfast. Cereal! Eggs, whatever we come up with,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think there’s any particular way to be a perfect dad, other than being there and being a positive influence. So I’ll do that.”
Lockette played in 34 games over the course of five seasons and finished his Seahawks career with 22 catches for 451 yards and four touchdowns. He was also a part of three Super Bowl teams in five season in the league.
While he isn’t entirely sure what his next move will be, his focus is on giving back. Asked whether staying around football was important for him going forward, Lockette had this to say:
“I think staying around the game is important for my mental. But these guys have hearts of lions, and they have minds of — we think and talk about stuff that you couldn’t imagine. So, these guys in here aren’t my worries. My worries are the woman that’s in the shelter with her kids that doesn’t have anywhere to go. My worry is the guy that has a doctorate or PhD degree that’s on the corner right now that just needs a little confidence or a little help. Or that kid that’s in school being bullied or being teased that could grow up and create a cure for cancer. That’s my focus.”