RENTON, Wash. – Golden Tate returns to Seattle on Monday with the Detroit Lions, two years removed from helping lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title.
For the rest of the Seattle receiving corps, though, Tate is still almost one of them.
When Tate left Seattle to sign with the Lions as a free agent in March 2014, there was little question among his fellow receivers that he would head to Detroit and a pass-happy Lions offense and put up statistics more gaudy than any he had in four seasons with the ground-based Seahawks.
“We had no doubt beforehand,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We joked beforehand that, ‘Watch, he’s going to go and double his production in Detroit.’ ”
Tate came close, going from 64 catches for 898 yards in 2013 with the Seahawks to 99 for 1,331 in 2014 with the Lions.
As Tate’s numbers piled up last season with a Detroit offense that threw it 150 times more than the Seahawks, it gave the rest of Seattle’s receivers maybe the most tangible evidence they could throw at critics who question their production and ability.
“We always talk about how talented we think we are,” Baldwin said. “But it just validates it for us that Golden goes and does what he does because we all knew it was possible.”
Tate’s off to a somewhat slower start this season, as are the Lions, who at 0-3 are considered one of the disappointments of the NFL. Detroit’s record was 10-6 last season, and the Lions lost a heartbreaker to Dallas in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Tate has 15 catches for 161 yards this season.
Tate found himself at the center of controversy early this week when he stated on his Detroit radio show that opposing players have told him they know what is coming from the Lions offense.
“I don’t know how they know or what film they’re watching that we’re giving away,” Tate said. “That’s something, we need to go back and watch our tendencies to figure out what, where we line up or how we line up or what formation, whatever it may be, we’ve got to figure it out because we’re clearly giving (our plays) away. All three weeks, a player has come up to me and said, ‘We knew what you’re going to do.’ That’s bad.”
Tate tried to clarify his statement a day later and was not made available to Seattle media this week. (NFL teams typically have one player talk via conference call to the media of the opponent each week. Tate was requested by reporters who cover the Seahawks, but quarterback Matthew Stafford represented Detroit.)
Others talked about Tate’s return to his first NFL home, though.
Baldwin, who joined the team in 2011, says the two became close in part through some shared frustrations. “Knowing that the role is going to be different (in Seattle) than in a pass-happy offense,” he said. “So understanding that and trying to settle into that role, we both had to do that kind of together. But it was fun because when we got to the point where we understood it, we were enjoying ourselves.’’
Tate was a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2010. The former Notre Dame star needed a few years to fully find his comfort zone in the NFL and Seattle.
Baldwin said that came midway through the 2013 season as the Seahawks plowed their way to the title in February 2014.
Tate’s rookie contract expired after that season and he became a free agent. Tate has consistently said his initial goal was to stay with the Seahawks. But Detroit aggressively pursued him and he signed a five-year, $31 million deal with the Lions on the second day of free agency.
Many Seahawks have remained close to Tate. He attended the wedding of receiver Jermaine Kearse this summer.
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