SEATTLE — The first time Kerry Hyder Jr. had what was considered to be a breakout season it was followed up by an injury that cost him an entire year.
At this point of his career, and moving on to his fifth different team after signing with the Seattle Seahawks, the last thing Hyder can afford to have happen is another major setback.
“I embrace the journey. It was a lot of ups and downs, but I prepare for every moment, especially this one,” Hyder said on Thursday. “I’m so excited to be a part of a group I can add to, I can add leadership, I can add play on the field. Feeling unwanted and someone bringing you in, that’s what I’ve been yearning for.”
Hyder signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal last month with the Seahawks after posting the best season of his career last year with San Francisco and Seattle looking to add depth to its defensive line.
Last season’s success turned out to be all about opportunity for the nearly 30-year-old. With the 49ers beset by injuries on their defensive line, Hyder started 14 of 16 games, posting career bests in sacks (8½) and tackles (49).
Hyder was expected to be in a rotation with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford last season before injuries presented Hyder with more of an opportunity. He ended up playing nearly 70% of the defensive snaps in his one season with the 49ers.
“It’s just the plays, being able to play and not just being a spot duty player, and the coaches trusting in you and allowing you to play I think that’s what helped it,” Hyder said. “I always felt like I could rush and felt like I could play well, I just felt like the right coach had to believe in me and allow me to play.”
Hyder’s best previous year came in 2016 with Detroit when he had eight sacks and 19 quarterback hits. But he suffered a torn Achilles that cost him the entire 2017 season with the Lions. Hyder started his career with the New York Jets and played for Dallas in 2019.
Hyder seems to have a specific fit coming to Seattle. His height and weight are very similar to Michael Bennett when he was a force on Seattle’s defensive line for five seasons between 2013-17. Hyder said his hope is to be as versatile as Bennett was, being able to rush both from the traditional defensive end positions, but also sliding inside and providing more of an interior rush if needed.
“The characteristics were there because that’s who I watched,” Hyder said. “Same body type that kind of thing. That’s one of the reasons why I was kind of pitching myself in Seattle. I can kind of see myself in that same type of role as Mike.”
Hyder said free agency was far different this time around coming off a career year, even as teams were facing a squeeze with the lower salary cap. He also insisted that despite turning 30 before next season starts, he has plenty still to give.
“I had an unorthodox journey to the NFL, so I might not have the mileage guys have on their legs. I had time on practice squad and I had time where I was able to sit out,” Hyder said. “There’s some young legs right here. I’ve still got a lot of time left.”
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