SEATTLE — So many times in our business, we’re asked to give our opinion about teams, athletes, or general sports topics. We watch football games and talk about the game in broad strokes, but we’re by no means experts. That’s why we rely on the analysts to dig deeper into the good and the bad of games.
Ideally, we call on former players and - better yet - current players to analyze the action. Who better to explain what happened in the game than the player who just came off the field?
We got that first-hand account Sunday in Houston from Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny.
For nearly four seasons, we’ve heard mostly the bad about Penny. The former first-round draft pick has struggled to find his way in the NFL, mainly because of injuries.
Sunday in Houston, he finally got everything working. He rushed for a career-high 137 yards and scored two touchdowns.
As fans (yes, sportscasters are fans, too), we saw a player who couldn’t stay healthy and was rarely available. But those observations were strictly from the surface. This whole time, we’ve been on the outside looking in. Only Penny had the ability to look deeper, and that’s what he confessed to doing multiple times over the last few years.
After Sunday’s performance, he poured his heart and soul into his comments regarding not only his career-best performance but the struggles he endured mentally and physically to convince himself to keep playing football and not give up.
He admitted to paying too much attention to the negative comments that came at him like a meteor shower - or maybe, more accurately, a social media shower over the last two seasons. He took comments from total strangers to heart. Us older guys don’t care much about what’s said on Twitter, but a lot of the young stars in sports thrive on the attention. They’re fueled by “likes” and “retweets.”
Penny wasn’t getting much of either. All he heard were words like “bust” and “waste” associated with his name.
He realized he was going to have to block out the noise and find his fuel from within.
He said half the people don’t know him. I’d venture to say it’s much more than half. In fact, very few know Penny the man, but he gave us a glimpse of that man Sunday and the drive it takes to succeed at the highest level of the sport. The flat-out toughness and even good fortune it takes to play the most punishing position in football and outlast the 2-and-a-half-year average career of an NFL running back.
Pete Carroll made some glowing comments about Penny after his performance against the Texans, and said he wants to see how he does in the next game and how his body responds after a full four quarters of work. Even Penny admitted he cramped up during the game because he wasn’t used to running that much.
In all other areas against the Texans, Penny’s muscle memory seemed to be working fine.
Just like his short-term memory.
The quicker he forgot about the nastiness spewed by the keyboard warriors, the quicker he got his confidence back on and off the field.
Even if he never gets close to 137 yards again, his accomplishments as a person far outweigh his accomplishments as a player.