Carlos Dunlap’s and his mother’s genuine joy and hug was the shining moment of another dark Seahawks game.
Sunday was the team’s annual Salute to Service game. That’s part of the NFL’s initiative recognizing past and current military servicemen and servicewomen each November around Veterans Day. Its why players and coaches around the league wear camouflage-themed team gear this month.
This year the Seahawks’ service theme was the Women of the Military. The team recognized more than 100 women service members and veterans throughout their NFC West game Sunday against Arizona at Lumen Field. Flag Honors and the Color Guard featured 60 women representing all military branches.
Army Staff Sgt. Erica Myers, an operations advisor in the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade at Joint Base Lewis McChord, a rugby player and a recent U.S. Army Female Athlete of the Year, led Seahawks players onto the field just before kickoff carrying an American flag. Retired career U.S. Air Force veteran Keisha Gwin sang the national anthem.
Midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks were trailing the Cardinals 16-6. During a change of possession and television timeout, the stadium’s public-address announcer recognized Dr. Diana Ross-Jackson as she walked onto the field. She served 11 years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a 91E, dental specialist. Dr. Ross-Jackson received specialized training needed to assist Army medical officers in examinations and treatment for military service members.
Dr. Ross-Jackson is the mother of Seahawks defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
“That was a surreal experience,” Dunlap told The News Tribune outside the team’s locker room following the Seahawks’ 23-13 loss that dropped them to 3-7.
“Obviously, it’s bittersweet with the circumstances, but I looked up and saw they were honoring somebody. Then they started talking about her ‘raising their children, Carlos and Bianca.’
“And I was like, ‘Wait!’
Dunlap, Bianca’s brother, Dr. Ross-Jackson’s son, was on the sidelines at the time. The 32-year-old two-time Pro Bowl end played a season-low 17 snaps of Seattle’s 83 plays on defense Sunday.
“And then I looked, and she was actually on the field!” Dunlap said, still sounding surprised almost two hours later.
“I ran over there!”
Dunlap’s mom was standing in front of the women military Color Guard along the goal line of the north end zone. As the crowd cheered for one of the few times during the game Sunday, Dr. Ross-Jackson waved a Seahawks towel. She was wearing her son’s number-8 Seahawks jersey, the nuclear-green version the team wears one home game each season. She pumped her arms toward the sky to encourage more cheers.
Her huge smile shined through her black face mask.
Then her son came running onto the field to her. Dunlap gave Mom a huge hug.
Then, he just about skipped back to the sideline with joy.
Dunlap knew the Seahawks were honoring his mom at the team’s Salute to Service game. The team had told him last week. But Dunlap thought the Seahawks were going to recognize his mother as part of some kind of ceremony at halftime. He figured he would miss it. He would inside the locker room then with his teammates, making adjustments with coaches for the second half of the game.
“They just said ‘we’re recognizing your mom,'” Dunlap said.
“Before the game, she told me, ‘They haven’t told me anything, whether we are doing anything on the field. They’ve given me no instructions.’ So I didn’t know if they were just doing a presser, because of COVID and all that stuff.
“I didn’t know she was going to be on the field, honestly.”
Dunlap said he’s never had a parent on the field, during one of his games, at any level of football. Not when he starred for the Cincinnati Bengals over his first 10 1/2 NFL seasons, until the Seahawks traded for him in the middle of the 2020 season. Not when he played at the University of Florida. Not when he starred at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, South Carolina, either.
“Yeah, in between the lines? That’s one of one,” Dunlap said.
“The only other time I’ve had a parent in between the lines (on the field) was in Cincy. Cincy let me run onto the field (before a game) with my dad, because my dad served, too.”
Carlos Dunlap — the Seahawks’ defensive end is Carlos Dunlap II — was sailor in the U.S. Navy. He was away at sea on deployments aboard carriers for months going on a year or more when he was son was young, the Seahawk said.
“He blew both his knees out playing basketball on one of the ships,” Carlos Dunlap II said.
Now, Mom and Dad are tied in being recognized at one their son’s NFL games.
“So it’s pretty dope that both of them (did it now),” Carlos Dunlap II said. “You know how parents are. Each one, they are loving their recognition.
“Now, they can call it even.”
It’s the biggest, almost only laugh, he’s had lately.
Not as planned
Last week the NFL fined him $10,000 for throwing a shoe of a Packers player back toward their huddle following a play in the Seahawks’ 17-0 loss at Green Bay. He then owned what he called his “foolish mistake” and key penalty in what was at the time a 3-0 game in the third quarter. He apologized to his team in the locker room at Lambeau Field after that game.
“I pride myself in being someone they can count on, versus letting them down in that scenario,” he said outside that locker room in Green Bay two weekends ago. “I just wanted to make sure they knew where I stood with it.”
He hasn’t been the centerpiece of a consistent pass rush he re-signed to be for Seattle this season.
He revitalized the Seahawks’ defense and season in November and December 2020 with two game-winning sacks and constant pressure on quarterbacks last season.
But this season Dunlap has one-half a sack and just four hits on QBs in eight games.
Seattle has failed to consistent affect quarterbacks all year. That’s a large part of the reason they often haven’t been able to get off the field on third downs. The Seahawks are 30th in the 32-team NFL with 17 sacks in 10 games. Only winless Detroit and 4-6 Atlanta have fewer.
Dunlap signed before this season what is essentially a two-year, $13.6 million contract. It has three void years after 2022, to spread his $7 million signing bonus across five years instead of two for salary-cap purposes. Only this year has guaranteed money in the deal. The Seahawks could cut Dunlap after he turns 33 this coming offseason and save $5.6 million of his scheduled $6.5 million cap charge for 2022.
He was asked outside the locker room following Sunday’s game what the mood was inside it following the seventh loss in 10 games for a team that’s made the playoffs eight of the last nine years.
“Frustrated. Motivated,” Dunlap said. “Committed to doing what it takes to get it turned, still.
“The hope comes from once we build momentum with execution.”
Dunlap also sees hope in how involved he and his teammates were throughout Sunday’s mostly dreary loss.
“You can see on the sidelines when these plays happen, everybody’s still locked in,” he said. “On that interception that we thought we had (by Sidney Jones in the third quarter Sunday, overturned by a ruling by NFL replay review), look at the sideline. It tells you the team we have. It was not going good that whole game, but you saw that sideline erupt when that happened. That tells you that everybody’s locked in, all the way through.”
The Seahawks need to win out over the final seven games of the season, beginning Monday night at Washington (4-6), to finish 10-7 with a good chance at the posteason. Going 6-1 to finish 9-8 would give them a shot.
Not that Dunlap thinks his team is anywhere near the point of being able to focus on playoff possibilities.
“Pffft! I’m worried about getting the next win,” he said, scoffing. “Then we’ll figure out what’s what from there. …
“Right now, we don’t deserve to look up and think questions about the playoffs. We need to narrow our focus down.”
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