When Seattle Seahawks Mark Legree’s career begins will depend on the resolution to the NFL lockout, which gives him a lot in common with the rest of the country: He’s waiting for football.
The league’s players are currently considering a proposal the league’s owners ratified on Thursday, both sides nearing a resolution to what has been the strangest of NFL offseasons.
Legree knows that as well as anyone. He is a safety from Appalachian State chosen by Seattle in the fifth round of April’s draft. He just turned 22 years old and is about to live the dream of playing a game he loves professionally.
But less than a month after the Seahawks picked him, he was faced with a blunt reality: He needed money.
“I was fine if there was no lockout,” he said. “I would have not had to worry.”
Players get a stipend for offseason workouts, and rookies receive a salary of at least $310,000 for the season. The lockout meant no money was flowing to the players this offseason.
The impasse between the players and the owners has been characterized as a battle between millionaire athletes and the billionaires who pay them to play, but that’s not quite right. There are plenty of players who don’t have multiple commas in their checking-account balance, whether it’s rookies who haven’t been able to sign a contract or free agents who don’t have a team.
“I could have asked someone to give me a loan,” Legree said.
But he also looked at an offseason schedule that didn’t include all that much beyond his two hours of daily workouts. He decided a job would do him good.
“I was pretty much just sitting on my butt,” he said. “It would just be extra exercise.”
So Legree did what he had done between his junior and senior seasons in college: He got a job working for a general contractor in Boone, N.C. He put up awnings and spread gravel and mulch. He knocked down a rock wall and built another one.
“It’s manual labor,” Legree said. “It’s physically exhausting, but I don’t mind it. I’m an athlete. Just being in the sun is no fun, but it’s not anything too hard. It’s simple stuff, just using my strength.”
It covered the rent, too, and his co-workers were plenty fluent in the sport, which passed the time.
“We just talked football,” Legree said.
Usually, a rookie like Legree would be already acclimated to Seattle. There would have been a three-day minicamp the week after the draft, with organized team activities beginning later in the offseason.
Instead, Legree had to settle for a more informal introduction. He came out a month ago, saw future teammate Kam Chancellor and met some other Seahawks.
Legree is ready to resume football, which he hasn’t played since last season. No spring practice this year, no seven-on-seven drills. Just a whole lot of waiting and manual labor.
“I haven’t strapped on a helmet since December,” Legree said. “So I’m just waiting.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org