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RENTON, Wash. — The Shaquem Griffin story is about to reach another level of remarkable.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Wednesday that Griffin, a rookie linebacker, will start Sunday’s opener against the Broncos in Denver, confirming what has been assumed with K.J. Wright recovering from knee surgery that is expected to keep him out at least another week.

Griffin has been working as Wright’s backup at weakside linebacker since Seattle chose him in the fifth round of April’s draft, making him the first player with one hand to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era.


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Griffin will start alongside Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo at linebacker as well as twin brother Shaquill Griffin at left cornerback.

“He’s been surrounded by some really good players, Bobby and K.J. and Mingo, guys that have been in the league for a while,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “So he’s kind of taken a backseat and really learned at a rookie’s pace, and now that he’s been able to play a little bit in the preseason, he sees the game speeds up a little bit.

“But he’s been amazing. It’s been fun to coach him. It’s been fun to watch his growth. The questions that he’s asked over the days and weeks have been improving and getting better. It’s just amazing to watch his development. As coaches, watching young players develop, that’s what it’s all about. So watching him grow and develop and run and hit and do the things that we expected him to do when we drafted him, it’s really good to see.”

Carroll said Wright, an eighth-year veteran and a Pro Bowler in 2016, felt something in his knee after the team’s third preseason game. He had arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 27. Carroll indicated two days later that he’d be out at least a couple of weeks.

Carroll said Wednesday that Wright looks surprisingly good for being only nine days removed from surgery. He said the team is “holding high hopes” that he could be back next week, “but we’ll see.”

Shaquem Griffin led the Seahawks with 24 tackles in the preseason, including a game-high nine in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts. But Carroll said he was “lost” and “all over the place” the following week, adding that Griffin’s “head was spinning” from all the information he was trying to take in.

“You could see the newness just kind of affect him, and I don’t know what it was that got to him,” Carroll said. “He’s been diligent in the preparation and the process all the way throughout. But not until he came back Week 3, everybody was working with him, trying to get his feet on the ground [and] make sure he was just relaxing through the process. … He was over-tight, he was trying too hard, he wanted it too much. It was so obvious that it made sense, and he really just turned the corner. That happened Week 3, and Week 4 he played really good both of those weeks. So he really had one down week. But I do think with all that has followed him, we have to stay with him, and we’ve got to monitor him. It’s almost too much for anybody in some regards.”

Carroll called it invaluable for Griffin to have his twin brother by his side. The two are roommates and, as twins tend to be, inseparable.
“They ground off of each other, they fit off of each other so well, and they own up to each other really well,” he said. “Shaquill will just tell him flat-out what he needs to tell him. They don’t mince any words at all. I think with that, he has as much support as he’s going to need. I think he’ll be able to handle it.”

Wagner and Wright have started alongside each other since Wagner was a rookie in 2012, which was Wright’s second season. Wagner identified on-field communication as the biggest challenge in having Griffin and several other new players starting on defense. He said they’ll have to over-communicate and assume that Griffin won’t know what he’s thinking the way Wright would.

“I think at the end of the day, you just don’t want to make him think too much,” Wagner said. “So anything that I can do to take off of his plate so he doesn’t have to think so much and [allow him to] just fly around and make plays, that’s what I’m going to do. That’ll probably be the toughest thing, just the communication. It’s going to be the first time on the road, so just being calm and understanding this is no different than any other game. You’re just playing against the guys you see on TV.”

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Breshad Perriman’s fresh start to the season lasted only a few minutes into the first day of training camp.

Running a simple 10-yard comeback route with no defender on him, Perriman watched a pass carom off both of his hands, resulting in a collective groan from the fans. Then Perriman pulled in the next throw, which led to mock cheers.

Someone yelled, “Oh my God, he caught it.”

The fall for Perriman has been dramatic, painful and merciless. In 2015, he was the 26th player selected in the draft and some draft experts labeled him the next Dez Bryant. Three years later, Perriman’s three significant injuries and an alarming number of dropped passes have put him on the roster bubble and in the bulls-eye for fans.

He gets ripped on social media. He gets criticized by the media. Even if he avoids Twitter and sports websites, he hears it from the 2,000 fans who sit a short toss away from him on the practice field every day this summer.

This is the pressure that mounts for a player who could be remembered as the Baltimore Ravens’ biggest first-round bust. Perriman has managed just 43 catches for 576 yards in 27 games, and he was the NFL’s worst-graded wide receiver last season by Pro Football Focus.

Struggling To Catch On
Breshad Perriman is one of five wide receivers drafted in the first round since 2001 who has played in at least 25 games and has totaled less than 45 receptions:

Charles Johnson Steelers 17 150 8.8 1
A.J. Jenkins 49ers 17 223 13.1 0
Laquon Treadwell Vikings 21 215 10.2 0
Breshad Perriman Ravens 43 576 13.4 3
Jon Baldwin Chiefs 44 607 13.8 2
Perriman doesn’t complain about being put under the microscope more often than other players. Increased scrutiny and the first-round pick label is a package deal, he says.

“I know there is some negative stuff out there, and there is always going to be some negative people that want to bring you down,” Perriman said. “I like they have a higher standard for me. I have a higher standard for myself than they have of me. I’m more pissed at me than they are when I drop a pass.”

The public backlash against Perriman has been brutal. Take Twitter, for example: He wished everyone a Happy Mother’s Day, but the only reply was someone who wrote: “Your mom doesn’t love you.” Last October, he tweeted that he was praying for all those affected by the Las Vegas tragedy. One fan responded: “I’m praying that you start playing like a first round pick.”

Teammates say Perriman hasn’t let the harsh words affect his confidence or his approach to the game.

“I feel like he’s handled it better than anybody else probably would,” Ravens wide receiver Chris Moore said. “I know me personally, if I was in that situation, it would affect me a lot more. He comes out here every day working hard. I don’t know what the fans think. He’s trying to be what they expect of him.”

In a ‘dark hole’

Perriman’s journey has been an extremely emotional one. He described himself as being in a “dark hole” when he couldn’t get on the field as a rookie because of a knee injury.

A year later, during a two-month period, he lost his close friend and teammate Tray Walker in a dirt bike accident and watched his father, Brett Perriman, suffer a significant stroke.

“My dad beat the odds and that’s what really keeps me going,” Perriman said. “Sometimes I have my days where I’m like, ‘Damn.’ But most of the time I snap out of it and you really have a thankful mindset.”

Supporters of Perriman contend injuries have derailed his career. He missed his entire rookie season in 2015 with a partially torn PCL in his right knee, and he was sidelined for all of training camp in 2016 with a partially torn ACL in his left knee. Last year, Perriman was sidelined for all of the preseason with a hamstring injury.

This would mark Perriman’s first full training camp of his four-year NFL career.

“When Breshad is healthy, he’s got a really, really uncommon skill and ability,” Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “When he’s healthy, the man can help a team win — period, done, complete.”

‘A scary topic’

The Ravens picked up Perriman’s $649,485 roster bonus on Saturday, which gives him one last shot to live up to expectations. The odds may be stacked against him to make the 53-man roster, though.

Baltimore added three new wide receivers in free agency (Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead) and drafted two more (New Mexico State’s Jaleel Scott and UCLA’s Jordan Lasley). Chris Moore looks like a another sure bet to stay with the Ravens, and a returner could take a wide receiver spot.

Perriman has yet to flash in training camp. He still doesn’t aggressively attack the ball when it’s in the air, which is critical for deep threats in the NFL.

How does Perriman see his future in Baltimore?

“It’s a scary topic,” Perriman said. “You know what’s on the line, you know that everything is on the line. It’s kind of like a make-or-break year, but at the same time, you can’t put that extra pressure on yourself. So I just really want to go out there and get better every day and control what you can control. Go out there and get better every day and go hard and everything will play out.”

No one understands Perriman’s situation more than cornerback Jimmy Smith. Drafted in the first round of 2011, Smith didn’t start his first two years, causing some to call him a bust.
Smith, who is now the team’s top cornerback, talked to Perriman about his experience. He believes players respond to criticism in two ways: You get bogged down by it or you use it as motivation.

“I feel like Breshad is taking it as motivation,” Smith said. “Everybody knows he has talent. Everybody knows he’s the fastest guy out here and he can make these plays. He knows his game. He knows what he has to do. He has to go out there and prove it.”

Perriman has six weeks to show he can impact Baltimore’s future and put his past behind him. He called last year the worst football he’s ever played, and he acknowledged he wavered a bit privately.

But he insists that’s no longer the case despite the doubts others might have.

“I know I have a lot of confidence in myself. It’s still going higher and higher,” Perriman said. “I want to have that swag back again.”