"Big Worm" Daniels keeps on digging in Washington
After the Seahawks lost their regular-season game at Washington, coach Mike Holmgren found Phillip Daniels on the field. They shared something rare...
Seattle Times staff reporter
ASHBURN, Va. — After the Seahawks lost their regular-season game at Washington, coach Mike Holmgren found Phillip Daniels on the field. They shared something rare after Seattle's crushing overtime defeat. They shared a sentimental moment.
Holmgren essentially told the defensive end that he was sorry it didn't work out after the 1999 season, sorry that the Seahawks couldn't afford to keep Daniels on the roster. Of all the defensive players purged during Holmgren's early tenure, he told Daniels that losing him "sticks in my craw a little bit."
"I really wanted to keep him," Holmgren said. "Boy, I wanted to keep him. And now, he's playing as well as I've ever seen him play."
Only Daniels is producing either his best season as a pro (according to teammates and coaches) or his second-best season as a pro (according to Daniels, it was 1999) in the other Washington. His eight regular-season sacks are one short of a career high he set with the Seahawks in 1999 and matched in Chicago two years later.
This season has been something of a renaissance for Daniels. He spent last season, his first in Washington, struggling through injuries, playing in only five games, recording only one sack.
"The main thing this year is going out and proving to everybody that I still can play," Daniels said. "Nothing gets old on me but my clothes."
Fair enough. But even at the beginning of this season, folks here wondered if Daniels could rush the passer anymore. He played in each of Washington's first six games, but failed to record a sack.
Daniels said early defensive schemes called for him to crash inside, leaving fewer opportunities for one-on-one rushes from the outside. Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach on defense, disagrees with that assessment, but agrees that Daniels is "playing the best football of his career." This included a four-sack game against Dallas in December and seven sacks since Dec. 18.
"Big Worm has really changed the face of our defense," defensive back Ryan Clark said. "Last year, we blitzed a lot. He's taking over games by himself this year."
Clark won't say where the nickname came from. But the easy guess is that teammates call Daniels "Big Worm" because of his resemblance to the character in the movie "Friday" who sells drugs out of an ice-cream truck.
Daniels' other claim-to-fame will stand directly across from him Saturday. That would be Seahawks All-Pro tackle Walter Jones.
"Actually, I take credit for teaching Walter everything he knows," Daniels said. "I'm his teacher."
Daniels smiled when he said this, knowing few people ever teach Jones anything these days. He doesn't expect the comments to get under Jones' skin, either.
"You don't get under Walter's skin," Daniels said. "He don't talk."
Daniels' wife still talks to Jones' wife, but that's about all the ties that remain from his Seattle days. He spent four seasons with Chicago after he left the Seahawks, then came to Washington for the last two.
This past season has been the most satisfying, if only arguably the most productive. Daniels helped break up a key fourth-down play in Washington's win over Tampa Bay. He has helped a defense without a Pro Bowl representative play better than any defense in the NFL over the last six weeks.
He's happy. And there's something to be said for that.
"This year is more special," Daniels said. "To get to this point right now, just to be in the second round — I've never made it past the first. Just to get that under your belt is really big. Every week we're going out and proving people wrong. Everybody picks us to lose every game."
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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