RENTON, Wash. -- Doug Baldwin knows he's fortunate to have spent eight years in the NFL and to have established himself as one of the better players on several elite teams.
He also knows he's fortunate to have gotten this far without having a season defined by obvious injuries affecting his play — until this year.
"I was talking to some friends about it the other day in the league and it feels like every player who is fortunate enough to play a long time in the NFL has a year like this where they cannot knock the injury bug," Baldwin said. "It's just part of the game, part of the lifestyle."
The Seattle Seahawks haven't gotten the production this year that they have come to expect from a player who has been their top receiver for most of his career since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He has just 41 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns entering Sunday night's game against Kansas City.
Those are decent numbers but not up to Baldwin's standard. Baldwin hasn't had fewer than 66 receptions in the past four seasons. The fact injuries are the main reason he's struggled this season makes it even more frustrating.
"It's been pretty difficult. Really difficult," Baldwin said.
Baldwin hasn't gone through a year like this with injuries since early in his career.
It started in training camp with a knee problem that forced him to the sideline for most of the preseason. When he returned for Week 1 against Denver, he almost immediately suffered an injury to his other knee when he was tackled awkwardly. He missed two games and ultimately had other problems that have hung over his season.
"I think the knee was the trigger for everything," he said.
For the past six weeks, it's been either a groin or hip injury that has slowed Baldwin. He missed Seattle's win two weeks ago against Minnesota during which Russell Wilson threw for a career-worst 72 yards, in part because the Vikings didn't have to worry about Baldwin being on the field.
Six days later with Baldwin again healthy enough to play, he caught two touchdowns in a 26-23 loss to San Francisco.
"That was great to see him have a big game and look so effective for us," coach Pete Carroll said. "It's just been frustrating for him. He just has not been able to get it going with the consistency he knows he can do and we know he can do, so it's a big deal. You can see he and Russ were really hooking up and made some great plays (against San Francisco) — crucial third downs and big plays and all that. It's good to have him back in action."
The hip problem popped up two days before the Seahawks played San Francisco in Week 13. He was still able to play that week against the 49ers, but needed a week off to recover. He's spent seemingly as much time in the training room as on the practice field.
The injury issues have raised questions about his future, how much longer he wants to play and whether that future will be with the Seahawks. He's 30 and is signed with Seattle through the 2020 season. But his salary cap hit is more than $13 million in each of the next two seasons.
"If you know me I have a plan for everything. There is a method for the madness," Baldwin said.
For now, he's enjoying being on the verge of clinching a playoff berth and believes the style of play Seattle has employed this season can make the Seahawks dangerous in the postseason.
"I think a lot of us are getting healthy at the right time. We're coming into our own at the right time and I'm really looking forward to obviously securing our playoff berth first but then getting into the tournament and being able to show what we're capable of against playoff-level talent. I'm really excited about our chances," Baldwin said.
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