It is a hot Summer day. You are dripping sweat. The stairs in front of you stand silent, unmoved by the pain they have already caused you, waiting to break your spirit. Your coach is screaming something, anything, to extract that last ounce of effort. Ultimately, it comes down to your will and character to convince your leg to lift and start another journey to the top of the stadium. You have done it a thousand times and know you will do it a thousand more. The gallons of sweat you have produced from Pop Warner through college could fill a lake. The total tonnage of weight you have lifted would make Atlas cringe. The hurdles you have overcome could line a marathon route. And now you finally realize your dream. You hear your name called in the NFL draft, soon after you hear your name called at graduation. All that work, all that sacrifice was worth it. The naysayers were wrong. You made it. Except your heart, the very thing that got you here, has other plans. In a matter of days, you are no longer an NFL player.
Garrett Scott's heart, the very thing that got him to the NFL, may have ended his career
Two days after signing his rookie contract, the Seahawks chose to waive Garrett Scott. His physical revealed a rare heart condition that leaves his ability to play football in doubt. Scott was not part of the combine, where players are given more comprehensive physical evaluations. The team did not invite him to Seattle for a pre-draft visit where they could have conducted an exam. There is a poker game that teams play ahead of the draft, hoping to avoid tipping their hand about which players they are interested in. Spend too much time looking into a player, and you run the risk of highlighting him to another team who may have missed him. Spend too little time to cloak your intentions, and career-threatening injuries can be missed.
The future for Scott
Scott will receive his $100K signing bonus, and could wind up on injured reserve if he clears waivers, which would mean he'd earn somewhere around $300K more. Depending on which way you tilt your head, the Seahawks are either demonstrating outstanding class in providing this contract for a player who very well may never practice for the team, or they are making the prudent business decision to give their draft pick every chance to potentially work out. It is likely a mixture of the two.
It is too early to tell what the future holds for Scott. There will clearly be more tests and more medical opinions. The team has not shared whether he will be allowed to work out to help stay in shape. If it becomes clear at some point that he will never play football again, the team would craft an injury settlement and Scott would be left to make use of that degree he just earned.
Impact to the Seahawks
Scott was the player I rated as the highest ceiling of the team's 2014 selections. He also had a lot of work to do in order to realize that potential. He may not have made the team this year even if he was healthy
John Schneider was able to bring in another well-regarded left tackle prospect, Garry Gilliam, who earned praise from Pete Carroll after the rookie mini-camps.
The team also still has Alvin Bailey and Russell Okung at left tackle. Scott, Gilliam, and any other prospects are largely here as projects who might provide the Seahawks options should Okung not merit another contract due to durability concerns. It is far from devastating for the team to lose their 6th-round draft choice, but it has to have grabbed Schneider's attention. This is not a man who wants any of his draft bullets to be blanks, and is committed to correcting errors that led to past mistakes. It is not a simple fix to avoid a situation like this in the future.
Maybe the team will lean more toward drafting players who they have more information about physically when the draft returns next season. Maybe they already acknowledge that picks in the later rounds are reserved for players who they know less about, but have high ceilings that make the potential reward worth the risk. Talent and grit are two huge components of what Seattle looks for in players, but durability and health cannot be overlooked. Paul Richardson missed the last two days of rookie camp. Kevin Pierre-Louis missed the last day. Add in Scott, and a third of your draft class has already shown some durability questions. This is far from a red flag. The team is being ultra-cautious, but the fact is there were injuries that led the team to hold out these players.
All of these young men have bled and strained to reach this point. There dream and their nightmare are divided by the slimmest of margins. Their skills may not translate to this level. The team may have a pile of ultra-talented players at their position that pushes them off the roster. Their bodies may not allow them to even compete. This is the plight of Garrett Scott. He now faces his next hurdle. The stairs in front of him have no pity. They remain silent, waiting for him to take his next step.
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