The Seattle Seahawks planned for Tony McDaniel to start at defensive tackle on Sunday against the New York Giants.
But McDaniel was sick — apparently very sick — and that allowed Clinton McDonald to make his first start of the season.
By the account of his coach, McDonald stepped up to the challenge and contributed in the Seahawks’ 23-0 victory against the Giants. It was Seattle’s first shutout of the season and the first time the Giants were held scoreless at home since 1995.
“Tony McDaniel was really sick — he was violently ill — and we couldn’t get him ready to go,” head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “Clint started, he was active, and he’s had a fantastic year for us.”
In August, it looked as if McDonald might not contribute at all.
After being a backup the two previous seasons, he was released at the end of training camp. He went home to Arkansas, continued working in the sweltering late-summer heat, and was re-signed two weeks later.
After that brief but hard look at life without football, McDonald came back a different player.
“It just seemed that something happened, like the light went on or the sense of urgency changed,” Carroll said. “He said that he’d never really felt like he’d ever been cut before. He had kind of been released and brought back on practice squads and stuff. This was the first time he really felt it. Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way. But he’s really been able to step up his game and be a really good asset for us.”
Through 13 appearances this season, McDonald has contributed 27 combined tackles and two fumble recoveries. He also has recorded the first 4.5 sacks of his career, along with his first interception.
“He’s been more active,” Carroll said. “He did lose some weight … he came back at 285 (down from about 300) and just seemed to be quicker and more active, and by far the most active that we’ve seen him. He’s been very consistent, too. He’s played real well and done a great job.”
McDonald, 26, was Cincinnati’s seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft out of Memphis, and he was traded to Seattle in 2011. He had 35 tackles in his first season with the Seahawks and 25 last season.