The veteran cornerback who left Seattle following the 2004 to sign a big-bucks contract with Carolina returned in April with a one-year, $2.3 million contract from the Seahawks.
Lucas’ return comes at Kelly Jennings’ expense. Jennings, Seattle’s inconsistent No. 1 draft choice from 2006, lost his job when Lucas got his back opposite star cornerback Marcus Trufant.
At 6-feet and 205 pounds, Lucas is better built to bang with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and other bigger, opposing receivers. They have often bulled through and past Jennings, who appears generously listed at 180 pounds.
So where does Jennings fit now?
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” he said Thursday during the second day of Seattle’s mandatory, three-day minicamp.
Jennings began last season entrenched as a starter. Then he gave up many of the big plays that have plagued the Seahawks’ secondary for much of the last three seasons. Unfortunately for him, each Joe Fan watching could see his slump, because Jennings plays a position where success and failure is so visibly obvious – if they are catching them, he is failing.
Then Jennings tore the labrum cartilage in his left shoulder in two places during last season’s finale against Arizona. He rolled onto his arm and dislocated his shoulder while tackling former Seahawks player Jerheme Urban.
Instead of going home to Florida, the former University of Miami star stayed around Seattle rehabilitating his shoulder following surgery.
The injury gave Seattle another reason to find another, bigger cornerback this offseason.
“It’s getting there. I’m not 100 percent,” Jennings said of his shoulder, after a second consecutive day on the field participating in position drills for the first time this offseason.
Jennings said he’ll be ready for full participation when training camp begins Aug. 1. But to participate in what?
“I’m trying to get healthy. Then when I get healthy, I will have a better idea,” he said.
“Beginning of last season, I definitely didn’t play the way I had hoped to. Now that the change has been made, it’s more competition. It’s kind of helps me heighten my senses and know I’ve got to really bear down and show what I can do.”
When asked what he must improve most, Jennings said: “Consistency. Knowing your defense. Knowing where your help is at. Using your help to your advantage.”
Some of that help is coming from Lucas. The 30-year-old has been serving as a mentor for the 26-year-old Jennings, and for 5-foot-8 cornerback Josh Wilson, Seattle’s top draft choice in 2007.
Lucas has been listening to his younger mates, too. They are all learning the new schemes and terminology of first-year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
“What I wanted to do when I came here – not just with Kelly but everyone in the secondary especially – I wanted to let them know I wasn’t one of those bullheaded veterans that thinks he knows everything,” Lucas said. “I’m just like anybody else on this team. I want them to feel like they can trust me and come to talk to me about anything, and vice versa. That I’m a cool guy to just hang around with and not just a fellow employee on this team.”
Jennings could relate to the workplace analogy. He graduated early from Miami with a finance degree. Not satisfied, he then completed another bachelor’s degree, in business management. All this came while he was a standout playing big-time college football, training 12 months a year. He even contemplated a master’s in business administration before deciding against it.
“He’s a good football player – and an even better human being,” Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said when he drafted Jennings.
Eventually, Jennings wants to use his degrees in real estate or banking. Not yet, though.
“Kelly, you can’t find a better standup guy, from what I know. Not just football-related, but in general,” Lucas said. “I mean, he’s just so mild-mannered. He’s just been handling his business and not been griping about anything. That says a lot about him as a person. A lot of guys wouldn’t be able to take it the way he’s been taking it.
“I’m sure, as a competitor, he wants things a certain way. But sometimes in life it doesn’t always go your way.”