A beloved punter walks into a bar: How Jon Ryan spent the day of his Seahawks release

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Jon Ryan

So, a beloved punter walks into a bar ...

Then what?

That’s what Jon Ryan is trying to figure out. Sunday, following “seven or eight hours” of conversations with general manager John Schneider, the two came to a “mutual decision” -- Ryan’s words -- to release the 36-year-old veteran after 10 memorable seasons with the Seahawks.

Monday, after tweeting a thank-you to the city of Seattle, Ryan made another decision:


“Well this is weird,” Ryan tweeted. “So I just get to do whatever I want now? Pull tabs at Jay Berry’s. See you there.”

Sure enough, Ryan and a friend pulled up to Jay Berry’s Cafe -- a restaurant in Renton that the Regina, Saskatchewan, native frequented for breakfast nearly every week for years -- took a left turn inside the front door and claimed two seats at the bar.

Meanwhile, nearly six miles to the northwest, the Seahawks machine churned on without him.

“It’s weird. That’s the best way I can describe it,” Ryan tells The Times as he was wearing a striped v-neck T-shirt and jeans, talking over Tom Petty’s voice and the low rumble of a vacuum in the dining room.

“You wake up every morning and you’re a Seahawk for a decade, and then all of a sudden you’re not. The weirdest part is that they’re at work right now and I’m not. That’s really when it hit me. They’re in meetings right now. I know exactly what they’re doing and I’m not there.”

Instead, he’s here, drinking a beer, laughing, taking photos with the occasional fan who stops in to wish him well. It’s 2:16 p.m., and the television directly in front of him -- which is tuned to ESPN2 -- runs a scroll across the bottom of the screen:

Seahawks release P Jon Ryan

Had been with the team since 2008 (longest-tenured Seahawk)

Had been. Past tense.

He takes a picture and takes a drink.

“On the field there’s certain games and certain championships and Super Bowls and stuff that stands out, but really what’s going to stand out for me are the relationships that I’ve built with people that work in that building,” Ryan says.

“Obviously, you meet a lot of good football players, but for me it’s a lot of the equipment guys, the training staff, some of the cooks in the kitchen -- these people that I have lifetime friendships and lifetime bonds with. That kind of stands out to me.”

And, speaking of lifetime bonds, it’d be nearly impossible to replicate the relationship Ryan has nurtured with the city of Seattle and its fans. When he tweeted the news of his release, nearly 2,000 people responded on social media (as of 4 p.m. Monday). One invited him to a barbecue Saturday. Another asked if he’d like to lift weights at 5 p.m. at a health club in west Seattle. A third offered to fly him to Napa Valley, Calif., to enjoy unemployment and drink some wine.

Nursing a beer at the diner in Renton, Ryan smiles and shrugs.

“The last four or five years, I’ve had that connection with the fans here,” he says. “Hopefully they think I’m approachable and personable. I think that’s kind of where it comes from. I’m no different than anyone else.”

Now it’s 2:30 p.m., and a Rolling Stones song pumps appropriately out of the speakers.

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes well you just might find

You get what you neeeeed

Ryan -- a 13-year veteran with 914 career punts (and seven touchdowns) to his name -- never wanted this. When the Seahawks drafted Ray Guy Award-winner Michael Dickson in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft, he didn’t like it, but he accepted it. He vowed to compete.

Now that competition is over, and it’s finally time to leave.

It’s 2:55 p.m., and Ryan takes a lap down the bar, smiling for photos and saying good-byes. A fan insists on paying his tab. He argues but ultimately relents. Outside, the Seattle skyline is ensconced in a thick layer of smoke.

Suddenly, Ryan’s future is equally clouded.

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