RENTON — Even before the events of last Sunday, veteran defensive lineman Shelby Harris was already enjoying the experience of playing the final few weeks of the season with the postseason at stake.
When Seattle got the help it needed from the Detroit Lions late Sunday night to send the Seahawks to the playoffs, it also meant Harris was getting a playoff trip for the first time in his career.
“Me and my wife were talking about it, not having plans already set toward the end of the year for all different things, it’s cool,” Harris said. “But it’s cool for all of us though, to block out all the noise and go into this year and really play for each other and get the result that we wanted.”
There will be a number of key players for the Seahawks taking part in the first playoff game of their careers on Saturday when Seattle faces San Francisco in the NFC wild-card round.
Most of that list is filled with rookies at the end of their first season, such as offensive tackles Abraham Lucas and Charles Cross, cornerback Tariq Woolen and running back Kenneth Walker III.
But there are only a few older veterans in that situation for Seattle. On offense, quarterback Geno Smith is on the top of that list.
And on defense, it’s Harris, who after breaking into the NFL as a seventh-round pick in 2014 with the Raiders is finally getting to add a playoff appearance to his career résumé.
“It was just something I’ve always wanted in my career. And it’s something I’ve never been able to get to because it’s not an individual thing, it’s a team thing,” Harris said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with another group of guys. We’ve been through some (stuff) this year. To keep through it and stick together and be where we are … we just won two straight going into the playoffs. We’re about to hit our stride. That’s the goal.”
Harris was a bit of an afterthought when all the moving pieces of Russell Wilson’s trade to Denver last offseason all shook out. Seattle landed what it thought could be its next starting quarterback in Drew Lock along with a bounty of draft picks when the decision was made to part with Wilson.
But Harris was a significant piece and ended up being far more impactful than Lock, who never ended up seeing the field as Smith’s backup.
Seattle needed depth on the defensive line and Harris brought both talent and experience playing in the 3-4 defensive alignment the Seahawks switched to this season.
Harris started all 15 games he played and his numbers ended up on par with the five previous seasons he had spent with the Broncos, with the exception of his sack total which was down.
“He’s been physical. He’s battled and been tough. Obviously, he’s an experienced guy. He’s played a lot of football. When he’s been out there he’s been valuable to us and done a nice job,” Seattle defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll was surprised when he found out that it wasn’t just a playoff appearance missing from Harris’ resume. He had never been on a team that finished with a winning record until Seattle’s win on Sunday ensured a 9-8 regular season.
Getting that first playoff berth was an added bonus for Harris.
“It’s a cool thing for these guys. They’ve been waiting their whole life to have a chance to do that. It’s a big deal to them,” Carroll said.
NOTES: Seattle returned WR Dee Eskridge (wrist) to practice on Tuesday, starting his 21-day window to potentially be activated from injured reserve. Eskridge was hurt in Seattle’s Week 10 loss to Tampa Bay in Germany. … Safety Ryan Neal (knee) was a limited participant in Seattle’s light practice on Tuesday. Neal has missed the past three games.