Shaquem Griffin was the feel-good story of the NFL this time last year.
Minutes after his final preseason game as a Seahawks rookie, he met with fellow different-limb athletes on his new home field.
The first one-handed player drafted into the modern league was not only reunited with his twin brother Shaquill on the Seahawks, he was starting Seattle's opening game.
Twelve rocky months, one failed season at linebacker and one preseason injury later, Shaquem Griffin is the mystery story of Seahawks cut weekend.
His status on Seattle's roster for the 2019 season took another turn Thursday night during the 17-15 win over Oakland in the final preseason game.
Griffin completed this preseason without doing the role coaches want for him this season: rush linebacker off the edge, like he was starring for the undefeated University of Central Florida two seasons ago.
Injuries at linebacker this month forced Griffin back into the role in which he failed as a Seattle rookie in 2018: off-the-ball, weakside linebacker.
Griffin was again a standout on special teams early in Thursday's game, and that remains his current value to the Seahawks. He sprinted down the middle of the field on the opening kickoff and leveled the first Raider to cross his face, knocking him back 5 yards onto the 20-yard line on Jason Myers' touchback. Then he made a sure, open-field tackle to drop Raiders returner De'Mornay Pierson-El during a 64-yard punt by All-Pro Michael Dickson.
But Griffin did not play a down on defense. He was standing on the sideline, holding his helmet when the Raiders had the ball.
Griffin had ice on the knee on the sideline late in the game. He had a bruised knee earlier this month.
He played linebacker in just one of the four preseason games, the opener against Denver. That was 22 days ago.
His knee has been an issue since then.
It's a roster issue now. Saturday, the Seahawks must cut their 90 men down to 53 for the start of the regular season that arrives next week.
"I don't know what to tell you," coach Pete Carroll said late Thursday. "It has persisted some, so we'll see. I think we're going to get him checked out again, tested again, MRI him again, just to make sure we know what's going on."
Carroll said "it's been a little bit different than a normal injury. He got hit on it. We thought bruised early on, but it just hasn't gotten well fast enough for us."
Griffin is an interesting case for Saturday's roster cuts. Injured reserve is not out of the question; "hasn't gotten well fast enough for us" could be a inference toward that being the resolution on the emerging issue with Griffin.
If the team puts him on IR before or among the final roster moves of the preseason, he would be out for the entire season. He would essentially be redshirted. He would get his full salary and would remain living in the Seattle suburbs in the place he shares with Shaquill, who is entering his third season as the Seahawks' starting cornerback.
If the team puts Shaquem Griffin on IR after including him on the initial 53-man roster beyond Saturday, he would be eligible to possibly become one of the two players each NFL team can designate to return from IR after eight games. But would the Seahawks spend one of their limited options for IR on a reserve linebacker and special-teams player.
The Seahawks could release him with an injury designation and a monetary settlement. But there is a real factor of what that would do to his soulmate--their starting cornerback. Normally, in the cold world of pro football, such touchy-feeling factor is not a consideration. But there is nothing normal about their story and their bond.
Seattle has six linebackers it can justfiably keep on the 53-man roster: Super Bowl veteran starters Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, plus backup middle and outside linebacker Austin Calitro from last season and rookie draft choices Cody Barton, impressive since May, and Ben Burr-Kirven.
Burr-Kirven made his case with 12 tackles (nine solo), one sack, one QB hit, two tackles for losses and one pass defensed against Oakland Thursday. Seahawks coaches will be thrilled with the former University of Washington's progress from July through August.
Barton, Calitro and Burr-Kirven are special-teams cogs, as is Griffin. Griffin's aggressiveness attacking opponents with his straight-line speed particularly shows up on covering kickoffs and punts.
Reading offensive formations, getting off blocks and maintaining proper alignments and assignments against the run and pass remain issues for him at off-the-ball linebacker. The Seahawks have yet to unleashed him off the edge in that more specific, pass-rush role, as they had planned to this year.
Normally, it could be a roster choice between Griffin and Burr-Kirven, who played middle linebacker at UW but was outside for Seattle this preseason. Griffin's knee issue gives the Seahawks an out. He can remain with the program, with that redshirt year on their injured-reserve list.
Cuts and final moves to get to 53 players are due to the league by 1 p.m. Saturday.