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Seattle defensive end Michael Sinclair, who is an ordained
preacher at Christ Church in Kirkland, Wash., knows where he
stands in the NFL's pass-rushing hierarchy. "If [Green Bay's]
Reggie White is the minister of sacks, then I'm the league's
deacon," says Sinclair, 28, whose nine sacks ranked fifth in the
AFC through Sunday's games. "And that's fine, 'cause right now I
know people see me up there among the leaders and they go,
'Sinclair? Who's he?'"

That's what everyone in Seattle wondered in 1991 when the
Seahawks picked him in the sixth round out of Division II
Eastern New Mexico. Sinclair was a 6'4", 250-pounder who was not
only strong but also fast enough to tangle a lineman's legs.
Those tools, however, seemed destined to go to waste in Seattle.
Sinclair's only sustained success in his first seasons as a pro
came in the World League; his 10 sacks in 1992 helped propel the
Sacramento Surge to the title game.

When coach Dennis Erickson took over the Seahawks in '95, he
told Sinclair, who had bulked up to 290 pounds, to lose weight,
forsake the bull rush and instead use his speed to outmaneuver
blockers. That change in style has netted the deacon 14 1/2
sacks in his last two seasons. "Every time I put my hand down to
rush the passer now," says Sinclair, "I honestly believe I'm
going to get there."

Often enough, he does. "He's getting bigger, stronger and faster
all the time," says Erickson. "That sounds like Superman. He's
not quite like that."

Not yet, anyway.

--David Fleming

COLOR PHOTO: CORKY TREWIN At a slimmer 267 pounds, the deacon has become a spirited speed rusher. [Michael Sinclair]