By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — Brandon Browner is back with the Seattle Seahawks after serving a four-game suspension, but Walter Thurmond, the cornerback who was scheduled to take over Browner’s spot in his absence, is out for the playoffs with a hamstring injury.
Browner, who was suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances, was back at Seahawks headquarters Monday and has been added to the 53-man roster. He fills the spot that came open because Thurmond was placed on injured reserve, having aggravated a hamstring injury last week.
“He’s back in the building today, and it’s good to have him back,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of Browner.
And while Browner will likely jump right back into his role as Seattle’s starting right cornerback, Carroll admitted there is some concern about rust. Players suspended by the league don’t just miss games; they can’t practice with the team, or even be at the team facilities, so no matter how much Browner has been working out on his own, he will have some catching up to do.
The Seahawks are certainly better off with Browner starting so long as he’s ready, but the experience gained by rookie Jeremy Lane and second-year corner Byron Maxwell during Browner’s suspension means the Seahawks won’t feel like they have to rush the Pro Bowler back if he doesn’t look right in practice this week.
“I talked to him today,” Carroll said. “He’s here, he has worked out real hard and his weight’s in shape, he feels fast and all of that, he’s going to have fresh legs relative to guys who are 16 games into it, but we’ve got to see how he does, and fortunately we’ve got guys who can play. If he’s not quite right or if he doesn’t get off to a good start during the week, we’ve got other guys who can play for him. But we’re going to give him a heck of a chance to play. We’re thrilled to get him back, so we’ll see what happens.”
As for Thurmond, this is just the latest setback for the oft-injured cornerback. The Seahawks viewed Thurmond as a potential steal in the 2010 draft because he was still available in the fourth round, the result of a serious knee injury suffered as a senior at Oregon. Thurmond had a chance to be a starter in 2011 when Marcus Trufant went on injured reserve, but broke his leg in his third start, and he then re-injured his leg last spring, requiring a second surgery. That kept him out for the first 11 games of this season, and when he finally returned, he got a chance to start after Browner was suspended, but after just one start, Thurmond went down with a hamstring injury.
“We couldn’t get him over the hump on it,” Carroll said. “He kind of re-tweaked it last week, and that means it’s going to be a couple of weeks again. The whole return after leg break that he had, he never really got back to full balance with his whole body, and he was just vulnerable. So we just kind of have to ice him for a while … when we get him back he’ll be able to have a good offseason and get ready to go. He played really well when he was in there, and we were able to see that he can help us and be a big part of the game plan and all. We look forward to him coming back when we get back to OTAs and all of that.”
Browner’s return could possibly change things at the nickel cornerback position. Not because he plays there, but because it could free either Jeremy Lane or Byron Maxwell, both of whom have worked inside and outside, to focus on nickel if Carroll wanted to create competition for Marcus Trufant. Carroll didn’t rule out looking at possible changes, but he also praised the play of Trufant, who returned to his nickel role Sunday after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury.
“We’ll continue to look at that,” Carroll said. “It does change the dynamic a little bit now that Brandon’s back. But Tru had a very good game this week and did a nice job in his first time back, and I think he made it through feeling fine. He was quick and sharp on his stuff, so there’s a good chance that he’ll be playing this week.”
Other than Thurmond’s season ending, the news is good for Seattle on the injury front. Carroll repeated what he said after the game Sunday — that the team suffered no new injuries — and he also said linebacker Leroy Hill should make it back this week after missing Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Hill will have to compete with Malcolm Smith to regain the staring job, however, after Smith had another strong showing in Hill’s absence. Smith also started for Hill earlier this season when the veteran was sidelined by an ankle injury.
Carroll acknowledged that Monday was a brutal day for men in his profession with seven head coaches losing their jobs. And Carroll, who himself has been twice fired by NFL teams, also acknowledged that all of those firings could have an effect on his coaching staff. Offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable has been a head coach before, and could draw interest from teams given how much he has helped Seattle turn around its offensive line and running game. And coordinators Darrell Bevell and Gus Bradley are both up-and-coming assistants whose names have shown up on lists of potential head coaching candidates. And while Carroll would certainly prefer to keep his staff intact, he wouldn’t try to stop any assistants for leaving if it was the right opportunity.
“I think on our staff we have some guys that are really worthy of consideration and we’ll see what happens, how it goes,” Carroll said. “I’ve always been a guy that wants to help our guys get the job that they want and work for them. That’s part of the deal coming here. They come here and I’ll do everything I can to help them go where they can go. It’s always made it hard on me, but it also is a good atmosphere for guys who want to come here too; when you go into the recruiting part of the coaching thing.”