By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND – He’s paid to get after a quarterback as quickly as possible, so Michael Sinclair isn’t a very patient man.
He’s also a very big man, which sometimes makes it difficult to ask the tough questions.
So when presented ever-so-gingerly with the fact that he has only 7.5 sacks in his last 21 NFL games after leading the league in that category from 1996-98, Sinclair did a sack dance on his inquisitor earlier this week.
“Are you asking if my numbers are down? Well, maybe you should just say that,” Sinclair said politely, trying to get to the heart of the matter. “We went all the way around the block. If you’ve got a question, just get right to the point and I’ll answer it.”
Yes, sir. So, why the dip in production, um … Mr. Sinclair?
“My numbers are down. I look across the board, and a lot of guy’s numbers are,” Sinclair said Wednesday in the Seattle Seahawks’ locker room. “I’ve just got to keep coming.
“Sacks come in bunches. Last year was last year. I’ve got 10 regular-season games left. A lot can happen. Am I frustrated because I don’t have a lot of sacks? No. My frustration would come if I wasn’t getting back there at all.”
A man who makes a living of putting on pressure, Sinclair is starting to feel some of his own these days. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been lying on top of opposing quarterbacks as much – a fact that extends to the entire Seahawks defense. He has just one solo sack in six games – and 1.5 overall – extending a streak of mediocrity that began last season.
In 1998, Sinclair had an NFL-high 16.5 sacks and recorded at least one in 12 of the team’s 16 games. By comparison, he has registered a sack or more in only three of the past 16 games.
That lack of production is part of the reason for the Seahawks’ 11 sacks this season, a mark that ranks higher than only five other teams.
“At some point, when you rush four (defenders), you have to be able to generate some heat,” defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell said. “We have not done that with any great consistency. The more (defenders) you rush, the more jeopardy you’re putting yourself into as far as the coverage area.
” … The basic staple of a defensive football team when it comes to rushing the passer is how well you do it when you’re rushing four guys. That has not been a strong suit of ours to date.”
For many years, rushing the passer was one of Seattle’s staples, and Sinclair was the main weapon. That’s what has made the past season-and-a-half so exasperating for Seahawks fans.
The most obvious reasons for Sinclair’s decline are age and his recent diagnosis with diabetes, a medical condition that involves too much glucose in the blood. Sinclair, 32, refuses to use either one as an excuse.
“I’m in excellent shape,” Sinclair said. “I’m 32, I think that’s pretty young. No, I’m not 28, 27, 26 anymore. But I still think that I’m in pretty good shape and I could still play.”
And the diabetes?
“It’s not a distraction,” he said. “Last year it was a distraction. Every foundation in America was writing me, saying, ‘This is what you eat, this is what you don’t eat.’ I had some weird letters. I think that was more of a distraction than anything. I found some things for Mike Sinclair that I am satisfied with.
“It’s been under control. I’m not so concerned with football. I’m 32. I would like to be 52, 62, 72. It’s not like, ‘I need to get it under control to play football.’ I need to do the right things as far as life, period. I need to get it right if I want to see my (6-year-old) daughter graduate.”
When asked about Sinclair’s age, coach Mike Holmgren also said it wasn’t a factor in his recent play. In fact, Holmgren is baffled by what is wrong in regards to pass rushing.
“What can I do?” Holmgren asked earlier this week. “Go out and hire a Reggie White? No. You can’t hire anybody. I can’t hire anybody. Teams that get in our situation, if they have some money, maybe they can go out and hire somebody to get something in there. We can’t do that (because of the salary cap).
“Now, if you can’t do that, what’s Plan B? Plan B is our practice squad. We’ve got a couple defensive linemen on our practice squad. Are they ready to play in a game? Probably not. So, what’s Plan C? Plan C is you just coach your head off and try and get those guys to do the right thing.”
And then there’s Plan D: finding the real Michael Sinclair. Because when he’s at his best, so is the Seahawks’ defense.
“It’s coming,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep bringing it.”
We’ll take his word for it. No need to provoke the giant any more.
NOTES: For the third consecutive week, Sunday’s home game against the Indianapolis Colts will be blacked out on local television because it was not sold out. It will be aired on radio station KQBZ (100.7 FM). About 5,000 tickets remain for the game and can be purchased by calling 206-622-HAWK. … The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the Eagles called Seattle in an effort to acquire running back Ricky Watters, but that the Seahawks were not interested. … Injured players Pete Kendall (stinger), Reggie Brown (stinger), Derrick Mayes (finger) and Frank Beede (calf) sat out of Thursday’s practice.
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