Seattle's Hill trying to make up for lost time

Seattle's Hill trying to make up for lost time

Credit: KING

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 5:13 PM

RENTON, Wash. -- Leroy Hill is starting to feel that swagger and explosiveness begin to return after two seasons where they were mostly gone.

Much of that was his own doing, as the Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker nearly earned a ticket out of the NFL because of off-field problems that included everything from marijuana possession to domestic violence, along with trouble staying healthy when he was playing.

With no guarantees, Hill was given a second chance this season when Seattle (4-6) gave him a one-year contract and an opportunity to prove his troubles were in the past.

And so far the 29-year-old, now in his seventh NFL season, is fulfilling his end of the deal, starting all 10 games and sitting third on the team in tackles with 61.

"Missing all of last season, I thought I'd be a little rusty and I was a little rusty just missing a year of football," Hill said. "The game sort of comes back quick. I just had to get my reads back and everything. It came back quick and I think game 9, 10 (I'm) just starting to feel like myself again completely. I'm ready to roll now."

The survival of Hill's NFL career, and specifically with the Seahawks, is remarkable. About the time Hill was finding himself in all kinds of trouble off the field, came a regime change within Seattle's front office. The people who drafted Hill, gave him a chance to become a full-time starter and eventually signed him to a massive contract, were kicked out. In stepped Pete Carroll as coach, John Schneider as general manager and with them, a completely different approach.

But a change in who called the shots was a minor blip compared to Hill's issues away from the football.

He was arrested in January 2009 on a marijuana-possession charge in Georgia and was given 12 months of probation. He followed that up with an arrest on a domestic violence charge in a Seattle suburb in April 2010 and eventually agreed to 18 months of probation and was required to complete a one-year state-certified domestic violence treatment program -- 26 weeks of weekly therapy and counseling, then monthly sessions for six months -- plus 25 hours of community service.

Hill looks back now and realizes how out of control he became.

"I was leading myself down the wrong path. I was basically wild and out. I was having a lot of fun and making a lot of money and it was just something that happened," Hill said. "I'm over it all now. I'm more of a vet and know what is important to me. It is what it is now, and I'm back."

In order to stick around with the Seahawks in 2010, Hill was forced to restructure a contract and take a $4 million pay cut. Two game checks were later taken away as part of NFL-imposed suspensions for violating the league's conduct policy.

Hill's 2010 season could got more miserable when he tore his Achilles' the first time he saw the field in Week 2 and missed the remainder of the year. He never played a snap on defense all of last season. He was a spectator as David Hawthorne blossomed into a legitimate NFL starter taking Hill's spot, and as the Seahawks won the NFC West title, eventually upsetting New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs.

"Watching this team make that run last year and all that, it just hurt sitting on the couch and watching it," Hill said.

There was no certainty that he'd return to Seattle. By restructuring his contract before the 2010 season, Hill became a free agent after last season. When the lockout ended, Hill's phone was flooded with offers, but they were all one-year deals for minimum money and no security beyond this year.

Hill was hopeful the Seahawks would call. He owes much of his return to the Seahawks to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and former defensive line coach Dan Quinn, who made the suggestion to Carroll that Hill could still contribute.

"They talked about him with high praise, about his toughness and his love for the game and that kind of stuff," Carroll said. "He's totally all of that. He's a really committed football player and loves the game."

When Carroll threw on the film of last Sunday's 24-7 win over St. Louis, he didn't point out Hill's second sack of the year where he blew through the line to plant Rams QB Sam Bradford. Instead, Carroll pointed out a trio of plays where Hill ran all the way across the field trying to help make a tackle. They are the plays that Carroll loves and the type that could give Hill a future in Seattle beyond this season.

"You always wish you could make more plays, but a lot of the plays you make aren't in the stats," Hill said. "I wish I could have made more critical plays, but in terms of performance I think I've been playing pretty well."

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