When the Seattle Seahawks finally released Malik McDowell earlier this month, the idea of him ever returning to the playing field seemed implausible.
The former second-round pick out of Michigan State didn’t suit up for a single practice over the past two years after suffering undisclosed injuries during an ATV accident in July 2017. He spent his entire rookie season on the Non-Football Injury list and reverted back to the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list after being waived last July.
During his brief tenure as a member of the Seahawks, the organization remained tight-lipped when it came to discussing McDowell’s status, refusing to reveal even the most minor of details regarding the injuries suffered in his accident.
Likely as a result of legal requirements, general manager John Schneider had nothing new to offer reporters off the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“You know, I can’t talk about him,’’ Schneider stated. “I really can’t.”
Only a few days later, Seattle unceremoniously released McDowell, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. After failing to gain medical clearance during his two years with the team, his chances of signing elsewhere rivaled those of Lloyd Christmas getting hitched to Mary Swanson. Not good, not good at all.
But on Monday, multiple sources reported that the Cowboys had scheduled a visit with McDowell, the latest twist to a saga that continues to become more bizarre.
Obviously, there’s a strong possibility Dallas could reach the same verdict as Seattle did, unwilling to clear him due to the nature of his injuries that remain cloaked in mystery. If a severe head injury occurred as previously speculated, it doesn’t seem wise for him to return to football.
But what if they don’t? What if the Cowboys have a quality visit with him and wind up signing him to a contract? Or another team swoops in? All it takes is one team to sign off and he’ll be back in pads again.
There’s no other way to convey it – if McDowell signs with another team and manages to play again, the Seahawks won’t be able to evade questions anymore. Fans and media members will understandably demand answers.
What really happened to McDowell on that fateful July afternoon? If he wasn’t healthy enough to play for the Seahawks, how is he suddenly healthy enough to suit up for another team?
Maybe the Seahawks were simply protecting McDowell from himself, as the player likely believes he can still play but the team’s medical staff fears the repercussions of him doing so. It’d be refreshing to see an NFL team value his long-term well-being rather than force the issue due to his lofty draft status.
If that’s the case, the Seahawks should be applauded for making the right call.
But what if there’s more to this than meets the eye? What if a degraded relationship between McDowell’s camp and the organization throughout this whole ordeal had become a bigger problem than his actual health?
Seattle invested their top draft choice in McDowell two years ago at a position of great need. With him unavailable to play, Schneider had to turn around and trade a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to the Jets for what amounted to a one-year rental with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
With so much invested in McDowell and as a consequence of his accident, why would Seattle allow him to walk if they thought there was even a miniscule chance he could play again? If he’s healthy, the only logical explanation would be strife between the two sides reaching the point where it wasn’t worth retaining him anymore.
Given the circumstances, nobody could blame Schneider and the Seahawks for wanting to move on. And for McDowell, it'd be a chance for a badly-needed fresh start and anyone with a conscience would be thrilled for him if he succeeds after all he's been through.
Based on the little information we do know, McDowell’s chances of returning to the gridiron seem minimal and Dallas may simply be doing its due diligence by conducting its own physical examination while knowing he’s unlikely to pass. If that holds true, the Seahawks will be in the clear and no further explanation will be necessary.
If the Cowboys or another team sign off on him playing again, however, the Seahawks will be ripe for criticism, especially if he returns to action as an impactful player. After spending two years shrugging off questions about his statius, dodging them will no longer be an option.