Shaquem Griffin is the best story in the NFL right now. It's also one that might not end with the preseason.
The one-handed linebacker impressed again in Thursday night's preseason finale. Griffin compiled eight tackles versus the Oakland Raiders, bringing his preseason total to 26, which led all Seahawks players. The fifth-round pick finished the preseason tied for fifth in total tackles -- he would be third if you take out players who participated in five exhibition contests.
Normally heartwarming stories like Griffin fade away when the regular season starts. Mid-round rookies rarely see the field to open their careers. Griffin, however, could play a key role for the Seahawks early.
Starting linebacker K.J. Wright is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery performed earlier this week. Coach Pete Carroll said the veteran could be out a couple of weeks, which could mean Wright starts the season on the sideline.
If Wright indeed misses Week 1, Griffin is in line to start.
Thursday's performance likely will instill confidence in the coaching staff.
"He's really doing well," Pete Carroll said, via the team's official website. "He just had a dip in Week 2, he kind of got maybe a little overwhelmed with the first week, he made nine tackles the first game, he came back and just wasn't on it. He tried too hard in Week 2, and then he settled in to Week 3 and it looked like he did again. I need to see the film, but it's a really important position for us, obviously right now with K.J. not ready for us yet. I'm anxious to see how he did."
With his left hand amputated, Griffin has gone from a player who colleges passed on, to having his future in the NFL questioned, to sinking to the fifth round, to being drafted by a team that already employed his twin brother, to being in line to start his first career pro game Week 1.
"It might seem crazy, but it's not crazy," Griffin said of his journey. "I just wait for my moment, and I'm just here to make sure I can hold it down for K.J. I talk to him all the time, I'm always in his circle, so that's a good thing. He's always checking in on me, making sure I'm in my playbook, so I'm ready to hold it down when it comes to him not being there."
Griffin added that he's "confident" he can be a stand-in if Wright isn't ready Week 1. He also has the confidence of his teammates.
"Shaquem did a great job, felt like Shaquem came out there and was flying around making plays," Bobby Wagner said. "The 'backers who started the game definitely put their mark on the game. We're on the right track."
With mentors like Wagner and Wright helping coach Griffin along, there is little fear in the rookie floundering if he starts.
In a world awash in negativity and depressing daily news, we need more inspiring stories like Griffin's to shine through the gloom of pessimism.