Hill grateful for Seattle’s franchise tag

jadams@macon.comFebruary 24, 2009 

CENTERVILLE — The offseason had brought nothing but uncertainty to Leroy Hill.

The Baldwin product and Milledgeville native had made a name for himself during the first few years of his career as a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks, but Hill knew the first few months after the season ended would be restless as he waited to find out his fate.

Hill’s contract with the Seahawks was up, and with the free agency period quickly approaching, Hill wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

Further complicating matters was Hill’s arrest last month for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

It could have been a deal-breaker, sending Hill to test the free agency market and making him a hot commodity when the period starts Friday. But last Thursday, a phone call changed all that.

With just a couple of hours before the deadline arrived for teams to use their franchise tag, Hill received word that the Seahawks used theirs on him.

“We sort of stalled on contract talks, so I had a gut feeling when the deadline came,” Hill said during Saturday’s “Breakfast with the Stars” event at the Golden Corral in Centerville. “They called me about two or three hours before the deadline and said they were going to tag me, so I sort of felt like it was coming because we weren’t reaching a point.”

It’s the only certainty Hill has experienced since the season ended in December. Because of being hit with the franchise tag, Hill will earn $8.3 million next season and have more time to work out a deal with Seattle.

“Obviously, I’d rather get a long-term deal done, but I can’t complain,” Hill said. “They committed to me with the franchise tag. I accepted and I’m going to give a full commitment back.”

Hill is excited about the opportunity that being tagged affords him — the chance to play for former Atlanta Falcons head coach Jim Mora. Mora was named Seattle’s head coach after Mike Holmgren retired at the end of the season.

Mora went 26-22 with the Falcons, leading them to the NFC championship game in his first season. Despite that success, Mora wore out his welcome with a 7-9 season in 2006 and was subsequently fired.

“I think it will bring a new spirit,” Hill said of Mora taking over in Seattle. “Mike Holmgren was more of an old school-type coach and Jim Mora’s a new-school, player’s-type coach, so I think it will just bring a new feel to Seattle.”

Mora spent two seasons coaching the secondary in Seattle, which means the Seahawks have a sense of continuity heading into next season.

“Yeah, we already know him, and he already knows the team, he already knows the guys,” Hill said. “It’s not really like a new coach coming in.”

That only provides more motivation for Hill to want to stay in Seattle.

For a few weeks leading up to being tagged, Hill didn’t know what the Seahawks had planned for him.

Hill was arrested at 4 a.m. January 24 in Lithia Springs after he was spotted sleeping behind the wheel of his car at an intersection, ESPN.com reported. After being pulled over, police found two bags of marijuana in the car. Hill was arrested and released on $1,500 bail, according to ESPN.com.

The incident didn’t appear to help his cause with being welcomed back to Seattle. Hill issued a statement, publicly apologizing for the incident and met with Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell.

Hill is grateful for Seattle giving him another chance. It’s where he envisions himself playing for a long time.

“Definitely, definitely. That’s where I started my career,” Hill said. “I know it’s a long way from home, but they gave me a chance out of college, drafted me in the third round and everything, so I give a full commitment back.”

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