RENTON — To know how far Roy Lewis has come in his career since joining the Seahawks’ practice squad in 2009, you really had to watch the former University of Washington cornerback not doing much in practice this week.
Yes, you read that right.
Lewis, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent with Pittsburgh in 2008, wasn’t a huge factor with the No. 1 defense in practice all week, and may not play a ton in Denver Saturday according to Pete Carroll. But that’s not a sign that Lewis is struggling or in danger of being left off the team.
No, Lewis can have a light work load for a week because the Seahawks are confident in what he brings both on defense and special teams, and need to see what they have behind him on the depth chart.
In his first full season with the Seahawks in 2010, Lewis made a name for himself on special teams, even being named a special teams captain that year. Last year, when he was coming back from a knee injury, his role on the defense was less defined. And even though Lewis was a special teams standout, there were no guarantees that he would make the roster.
In preparation for the 2012 season, however, Lewis has been a regular on defense as the team’s No. 1 nickel back, and is playing ahead of veteran Marcus Trufant, who was released in the offseason then re-signed specifically to play nickel.
“Roy has been playing that position for some time,” Carroll said. “He is ahead of everybody else in the learning and the understanding. If you notice, Roy won’t play very much this week in preparation. We know what he can do and we want to see what other guys can do. … That was a one of the major focuses (this week) — to give guys a chance in the competition to show what they can do.”
For Lewis, the 2012 season is a chance to make a name for himself as something more than a special teams ace. Now don’t get him wrong, Lewis takes pride in his play on special teams, it’s just that he’s ready to take a step forward as a more regular contributor on defense.
In addition to playing nickel back, Lewis also has shown versatility playing safety in practice this offseason, something that should help him find more opportunities to get onto the field.
“It’s important to me,” he said. “I’m going into my fifth year, and I think I’m getting to the time where it’s time for me to make a name for myself. … I’m just constantly trying to grow. You’re never too old to learn, never too old to take on a new challenge.”
And as crazy as it might sound to anyone who remembers watching Lewis play in a Husky uniform not that long ago, Lewis also is establishing himself as a veteran leader in Seattle’s young secondary. After coming to Seattle and learning from jack-of-all-trades defensive back Jordan Babineaux, Lewis, who is the second most experienced defensive back on Seattle’s roster behind Trufant, has tried to take on a similar role of versatile leader.
“He really learned under Babineaux,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Babineaux was really good for him, just because he’s a really detailed guy and Roy has taken that on now. He can talk to all of the guys. He can talk to the safeties, he can relate to the corners, the linebackers, because he plays multiple positions. It’s great to have that extra coach on the field.”
Lewis returns this season to Seattle after briefly being an unrestricted free agent. He was a restricted free agent, but when the Seahawks didn’t tender him a contract in March, Lewis was available to every team in the league for a couple of weeks before he re-signed.
To Lewis, who has spent most of his adult life in the area aside from the one year in Pittsburgh, staying in Seattle was important — not just because of the bond he has with the team, but also the bond he has with the community.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “Seattle is so much a part of me, as I am a part of it playing college here and now playing professional here. As long as I can stay here, I’m going to be here, that’s just how it is. This city has given me so much and I’ve tried to give so much back to it. I feel at home here.”
Lewis was named the Seahawks Man of the Year in 2010 for his work in the community. He said his desire to give back stems from his childhood upbringing, as well as his memories, or lack thereof, of seeing professional athletes in the community when he grew up in Los Angeles.
“That’s just how I was brought up,” he said. “Treat others how you want to be treated. That was instilled in me from youth. If I got an opportunity, I wanted to be able to give back. I grew up in L.A. with the Raiders and the Rams, and I can’t recall any time where I saw any Raiders or Rams, so I made a point that if I was in a position to give back or make a child’s day, I would do that.”
A long-time staple in the community, Lewis is now trying to also become a regular on Seattle’s defense. And if his play in training camp is any indication, Lewis is on his way to doing just that.
“He has always had a great motor. He is a great kid in the program and he is really smart, and he takes advantage of that,” Carroll said. “That’s how he plays. He is a savvy player, he has great work ethic and he is tenacious. We love him; he fits the whole mold of the great competitor for us.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.