RENTON — Tyler Lockett spent his Christmas Eve breaking his leg and having horrified teammates Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson praying over him on the field.
Lockett spent his Christmas Day in a hospital bed in Seattle. His family was with him — not that he could tell. He was trapped in a sleepy fog caused by pain-killing medication following a pre-Santa surgery to fix his broken tibia and fibula.
“I don’t remember Christmas,” he said, rubbing his chin. “I opened probably one present, and I was halfway asleep off those Oxys.”
On New Year’s Eve, he was still conked out.
“I didn’t even make it to New Year’s,” Lockett said. “I was asleep that whole day, too. I mean, I didn’t get to experience nothin’. I opened one (Christmas) present. Don’t even know what it is.”
What a difference eight months, determination and a kid-like aversion to being told he can’t run have made for the speedy wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner.
Now, eight months after his lost Christmas, he’s gifting the Seahawks.
Lockett spent Friday on the Seahawks’ practice field — and off the team’s physically-unable-to-perform list. Wearing a wrap and brace over his previously broken left leg, he practiced semi-fully for the first time since his injury on Christmas Eve in a game against Arizona. He fielded kickoffs out of JUGS machine early in drills and ran routes with fellow wide receivers before missing team scrimmaging.
They were his best steps yet toward getting back into the starting lineup for the 2017 opener at Green Bay next month.
“I’m pretty much ready,” Lockett said. “If there was a game tomorrow, I’d play in it.”
That and Earl Thomas’ return to full practice participation from his broken leg the three-time All-Pro safety suffered three weeks before Lockett broke his are the most positive developments through five practices of this Seahawks training camp.
Lockett went to high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before breaking his dad’s and uncle’s college receiving records at Kansas State. He goes back to the Heartland each offseason — except this last one. He did all his lonely, seemingly endless rehabilitation work in Seattle. That including humbling times in a wheelchair, and when, he said, “I had to learn how to walk again.”
“The toughest part was staying in Seattle,” Lockett, 24, said. “I didn’t get to see my family. I didn’t get to see my friends or anybody like that.
“I can go through an injury (the first major one of his football career). I have no problem with that. But not being able to go through it with people who were with me my whole, entire life, that probably was the hardest part. I love my family. I enjoy my family. They’ve been with me for my whole, entire ride.”
Lockett, who has 92 catches through two NFL seasons with Seattle, was speeding toward the playoffs with the rest of the Seahawks on Christmas Eve. Seattle third-round draft choice in 2015 had taken Jermaine Kearse’s job as the starting, No. 2 wide receiver behind Baldwin. Lockett was coming off a breakout game the previous week last December: seven catches for 130 yards and his first touchdown of the 2016 season in a rout of the Los Angeles Rams.
He had been zooming again, finally back from battling a sprained knee for 2½ months. The injuries reduced his production from 51 catches in his rookie season of 2015 to 41 last year, and six touchdowns receiving to just the one. But by late last season he was poised to add the deep speed Seattle struggled without most of 2016.
Just before halftime against the Cardinals on Dec. 24 Lockett leaned toward the end zone trying to catch a pass from Russell Wilson. He had run past Arizona cornerback Brandon Williams and caught Wilson’s pass in the crook of his left arm as Williams was interfering with him. Williams tugged at the right side of Lockett’s body after the catch, pulling half of Lockett’s body weight onto the outside of his lower right leg. Two bones in the leg snapped.
The Seahawks visited him in waves at the hospital following the loss to the Cardinals that day, and on the days and weeks that followed into Seattle’s postseason. After the pain medication wore off, Lockett did some visiting of his own. Antsy and refusing to be static in his hospital bed, he wheeled himself outside his private room.
“I’m a kid,” Lockett said. “When I’m hurt, you’re not going to have me stay in a bed the whole time. I’m going to go around, go into people’s rooms, say hello to them. Watch the games with them. I’m going to be up, and going!”
He made daily tours of his hospital’s wards, visiting with fellow patients young and old.
“I got the opportunity to meet a lady when I was in the hospital and a man that was in the hospital. And obviously they had it worse than me,” Lockett said. “It sucked to see they had it worse than me, and I didn’t look at my injury that was something that was detrimental. Not for the people that I met when I was in there. They had things that were going to last a lifetime with them. That’s when I started seeing big pictures. I started feeling like, even though this something bad happened to me, you have the opportunity to bring people back up.
“When you get the opportunity to go down to the bottom, you can have the opportunity to bring other people up to the top, getting them feeling good about themselves as well, even though they are stuck in a bad predicament.”
The Seahawks aren’t rushing Lockett back, because on Aug. 4 they don’t have to. He began running again only in May.
“It’s (going to be) to continue to just work him through,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “(Friday) it was just individual (position) drills and install (of the playbook early in practice). We’re going to kind of start to continue to move him along. There will be periods such as (Friday) when he’s done with that once he is done with that, then he goes in and gets his conditioning in.
“But we are excited to have him back out there. He has such an energy about him, and an optimistic outlook on life. He’s really a great guy to have around … to see him back out here is a really special thing.”