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Doug Baldwin has failed his first – and likely last – physical.
When the Seattle Seahawks terminated the contract of Doug Baldwin with a failed physical designation, it ended their ties to one of the most prolific receivers in Seahawks history. The move leaves only Russell Wilson, KJ Wright, and Bobby Wagner as remaining stars of the 2013 Super Bowl championship roster.
The termination itself was not the move many of us were expecting, but neither were Doug Baldwin’s career or personal development either. As an undrafted rookie, people didn’t expect him to become the best-handed receiver on the team for eight seasons. As an emerging star, people didn’t expect him to excrete a football during the 2015 Super Bowl. As the guy who did that, people weren’t expecting him to become the consistent verbal leader and statewide advocate for justice that he became. Baldwin was true to himself, committed to personal growth, and seems to have always had his mind set on things beyond the NFL.
All of that helps explain a shockingly quick progression for a player who has missed five games in his entire career. It’s obvious that Baldwin played through a significant amount of pain last season, and his three procedures this offseason have proved too much to be confident in his recovery.
It’s hard to sit on the couch and discern the headspace of someone who got thrown to the ground for a living. The truth is, Baldwin has tried to quit football before. Once at Stanford, under Jim Harbaugh. The fact that a Harbaugh player grew tired of football probably surprises a grand total of zero Seahawk fans. There was a second time, however, that you won’t find on the Internet. I heard from someone who married into Baldwin’s extended family that he had been leaning towards starting a business with family, had it not been for his legendary 2015 campaign and subsequent contract extension.
It seems the grind of the game has finally caught up. But even if he never grabs another pass, Doug Baldwin will undoubtedly go down as one of the better undrafted free agents in the NFL’s history. And after all that he has done and hopes to do for the PNW, he deserves recognition for what he was able to accomplish as he carved out his own path in the league.
Baldwin surpassed 1,000 yards twice, and was one unfortunate decision by Russell from a third. He tied for the league lead in receiving TD’s in 2015 with fourteen and never lost a fumble in his career. He made his own version of OBJ’s the catch - in single digit weather. He was one of the best slot receivers in the NFL during his career, posting top-5 numbers in receiving yards, first downs, receiving touchdowns and explosive plays since 2012. Since 2015 Baldwin maintained the lowest dropped ball percentage in the league at 2.76%.
In the past two decades only Wes Welker is in the same tier among undrafted receivers, with Adam Thielin a new face in the conversation. Welker, interestingly enough himself an undersized slot receiver, had more total yards than Baldwin and more seasons surpassing 1,000 yards with five. But remember, Seattle’s offense never functioned on the level the Patriot’s did during that time.
It’s more than a little ironic that Baldwin, at times openly critical of teammate Russell Wilson, shares one ever-present similarity: no one believed he was good enough. Or tall enough. At 5’10" himself, passed up in the 2011 draft, and never considered an elite receiver by many of the national pundits, Baldwin played with an rather heavy chip on his shoulder throughout his career. Even halfway through his ridiculous 14 TD campaign in 2015, people kept right on underestimating him. That motivation, plus his fiery personality, coupled with the fact that he refuses to smile after a big catch, earned him the well-deserved "Angry Doug" moniker.
In many respects, Baldwin stood as a perfect foil to his overly-optimistic head coach Pete Carroll. Baldwin would call people out, express frustration, and during interviews would prefer not to talk football. Carroll is perennially upbeat, spins most everything into a positive, and just wants to talk ball. But for all their differences, Doug Baldwin at his core was exactly the type of player the Seahawks love so much. Seattle was at its best when their identity was a team of scrappy, late-round picks with something to prove. Baldwin was never satisfied with his own accomplishments, or that of his team. Seattle hopes to maintain this identity of "always compete, never settle", and undoubtedly players will look to the example of Baldwin for years to come.
There is still technically a window for Baldwin to see the field again. He is exactly the type of person who could overcome this extent of injuries. However, his motivation seems to have shifted in recent years, as he has become a passionate spokesman for empathy, equality, and police behavior. If he does leave the game, he will stand out – not very tall – as one of the greatest reminders that measurables, prototypes, and scouts’ opinions, can all be proved quite wrong.