RENTON — Every time Bryan Walters signs with the Seattle Seahawks, he hopes it will be permanent, or at least as permanent as anything in can be in the NFL. And every time Walters signs with the Seahawks, he knows it might not last more than a few days.
Such is the life of a player on the fringe.
Walters, a receiver from Kirkland who has bounced around the NFL since 2010, like many others around the league, is good enough to contribute to an NFL team, but also expendable enough to be the odd man out. Especially as the season wears on and injuries dictate that a team adds help at other positions.
The Seahawks’ opinion of Walters didn’t change last week when they decided to waive him Saturday, but they were healthy at receiver and had a need at safety with injuries piling up, so they signed Terrence Parks off their practice squad and waived Walters.
Now that Kam Chancellor and Jeron Johnson are both expected back this week, the Seahawks were able to waive Parks and bring back Walters.
Lather, rinse, re-sign.
Welcome to life on the roster bubble. One day you’re returning kicks and punts for a Super Bowl champion, the next you’re sitting at home in Kirkland watching on TV as the Seahawks run plays you practiced during the week.
“It’s weird man,” Walters said. “I don’t like listening to announcers … You get to see (plays) develop in front of you. It’s like, they’re running this, here it is.”
Walters is hardly alone in the world of week-to-week NFL uncertainty. Every team has a few players like him who are on the roster one week, gone the next, and on the practice squad the week after that, and Walters is just another example of what life is like at the bottom of the roster.
Since signing a futures contract with Seattle after the 2012 season, Walters has been a part of 11 transactions between the active roster and practice squad and temporary unemployment. Last season he traveled with the team to Atlanta, only to be released the day before a game because the Seahawks needed to add depth on the defensive line. This year he was release when the roster was trimmed to 53 players, then re-signed two days later.
No one in that position is asking for your sympathy, they get that they’re still making good money to play a game they love, but it’s still tough to go through a season unsure if the next game check is your last.
“It sucks, but I realize it is part of the game, it’s part of the business upstairs that they have to do to be able to field a full team — we were really banged up,” Walters said. “But at some point you hope you get past that. It’s just one of those things that’s out of my control. They make the decision in hopes they can get me back, and it’s worked every time.”
And even if you might think a player in Walters’ shoes would have gotten used to this by now, the latest cut was a tough one, because for the first time in his NFL career, the former Juanita High School grad was seeing regular playing time both in a limited role on offense and as a returner on special teams.
“This one was tough, because, I’ve been playing,” he said. “You’re playing, you’re playing, you’re playing, and all of a sudden, no, you’re not going. So that was not fun. It’s just part of the business. You try to get used to it, you try to understand it.”
Walters’ latest trip to the waiver wire at least came with the understanding that he had a good chance of being re-signed this week, presuming another team didn’t claim him. That communication is important to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, who try to let players know their intentions when they release them, whether it’s to bring them back to the practice squad, or to the active roster if the injury situation improves, or if it’s a permanent move.
“It’s not something that goes lightly where you just brush it off and say OK you’re out of here; it’s a big deal to us,” Carroll said last season, yes, after Walters had been released then re-signed to the practice squad. “Some guys have been flipped back and forth a number of times, and those guys get a little more accustom to it, they understand what the situation is. But some guys don’t know if they’re ever going to come back so it’s a big deal and we respect it tremendously.”