When he left Seattle more than four years ago, cornerback Ken Lucas was still young and impressionable, wooed across the country to Carolina by big dollars and a feeling of being unappreciated by the Seahawks.
Time has provided Lucas some perspective.
“At the time some of those feeling came through and kind of made me feel like I was unwanted. That gave me more of a sense of I want to go somewhere else,” Lucas said Sunday as the Seahawks wrapped up their minicamp. “Now that I look back on it and know better now I would not say the same thing.”
The body is a little more worn and the number is different, but Lucas is back where his career with the Seahawks, signed last week as part of a trio of well-calculated moves by Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell.
Taking the gamble that removing the franchise tag from linebacker Leroy Hill might break the stalemate in negotiations over a long-term deal with Hill, Ruskell immediately used the now available money to sign the big cornerback the Seahawks sought – Lucas – an experienced fullback in Justin Griffith.
Then a few days later, Hill and the Seahawks reached agreement on a long-term deal, completing Ruskell’s week of deals.
“I certainly think that all indications right now are that we’ve addressed our needs the best that we could and Tim’s just done a tremendous job with that,” Seattle coach Jim Mora said.
Adding another body to a secondary that ranked dead last in the NFL in yards passing allowed during Seattle’s 4-12 swoon last season was a need, especially in a division loaded with big, talented receivers like Arizona’s duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
Lucas isn’t the answer to all of Seattle’s issues, but he gives the Seahawks a proven veteran to try and improve a defense that allowed more than 250 yards passing per game last season. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Lucas towers over 5-8 Josh Wilson and is bulkier than 180-pound Kelly Jennings, the two options Seattle used opposite Pro Bowl corner Marcus Trufant last year.
That’s why Lucas was out running with the Seahawks No. 1 defense during the past weekend, even though he was only signed a few days earlier.
“It was kind of a flashback in time,” joked Trufant, who played across from Lucas in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Added Lucas, “I feel good to be a part of this team, and they already had the pieces in place without me, so I’m just coming in here to enhance the team, not to come to be the savior.”
Lucas left Seattle after the 2004 season following Seattle’s loss to St. Louis, and at a time of overhaul in Seattle’s front office. Ruskell eventually took control, but contact with Lucas – a free-agent at the time – was minimal.
When Carolina offered Lucas a six-year, $36 million deal as Seattle focused on other free-agent priorities, Lucas immediately jumped at the opportunity. He never said much publicly, but Lucas was bitter at the lack of interest from the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second-round of the 2001 draft out of Mississippi.
He had a chance at some revenge later that year when Seattle played Carolina in the NFC championship game. Instead, Lucas became known as the guy that got beat by backup quarterback Seneca Wallace for a catch that setup Seattle’s first touchdown in the Seahawks’ 34-14 romp.
“I wanted to win that game so bad. Just to come back and show the fans and the coaches and things what I had,” Lucas said.
Lucas also became part of the sideshow last year during Panthers training camp when Steve Smith sucker-punched him and broke Lucas’ nose. He started 49 of 50 games with Carolina, but struggled toward the end of last season and was released as part of a salary dump by the Panthers in March.
Now he gets a chance to show Seattle made the right decision in bringing him back to where his career started at age 30.
“I know the logistics of the business, and I knew I wouldn’t be in Carolina after this year,” Lucas said. “I started thinking about the teams I’d like to play for, and I thought about the Seahawks, and thought, ‘Man, it would be nice to go back there and finish my career there.’ I never thought it would come to fruition.”