RENTON — The workout took place at the Seattle Seahawks’ facility and was the same type of testing any would-be free agent looking to join the club would go through.
Yet, this wasn’t a free agent being examined. It was Chris Clemons undergoing scrutiny to see if the Seahawks’ sack leader for the last three seasons would be ready to return from a torn ACL in his left knee early in the 2013 season, or if Seattle needed to be even more patient with his return.
“I said to everybody, ‘If he had come in here and we didn’t know who he was and we worked him out right here we all would have said we would like to put him on our team,’” Carroll recalled of the workout that took place in late August.
The Seahawks knew at that point that they would get Clemons back on the field sooner rather than later. There would be no need for Clemons to start the season on the physically unable to perform list and delay his return by another six-plus weeks.
So 8 ½ months after tearing up his knee on the shoddy playing surface at Washington in the NFC playoffs, Clemons was back on the field last Sunday, getting a handful of plays in the Seahawks’ 45-17 rout of Jacksonville.
“Every day was different. You know you wake up some days feeling great and some days feeling like I don’t know if I can do it again,” Clemons said after the win over the Jaguars. “The biggest thing was just trusting what they had me doing as far as rehab and the weight room. Just continuing to believe in exactly what I can do.”
Clemons was on the field for 16 plays against the Jaguars, his initial return to action since being helped off the turf in Washington in the third quarter of Seattle’s playoff win over the Redskins. It was a serious injury, suffered when Clemons’ cleats appeared to get caught in the messy field, tearing his ACL and meniscus.
Typically, the injury takes at least nine months for recovery. But Clemons beat those expectations going through the rehab process minus the typically noticeable brace on repaired knees.
“When we really started to pound away on him to get him back, he could handle it and stay out there and keep working,” Carroll said. “That really, to give him the credit, he was so ready to get right it really accelerated the process.”
Clemons’ 33 ½ sacks between his arrival in Seattle in 2010 and the end of the 2012 regular season were tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Along with his pass rushing consistency, Clemons also proved valuable at holding the edge against the run in Seattle’s defensive schemes, a skill that was noticeably missing a week after he was injured in the Seahawks’ playoff loss at Atlanta.
Because Seattle was unsure about Clemons’ recovery timeline, the defensive line became a priority in the offseason with the signings of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to help a pass rush that, aside from Clemons, had struggled. Now with Clemons back, Seattle used that trio, along with O’Brien Schofield, and made up a unique, fast defensive front that was used for the first time against Jacksonville.
“It shows you that he’s ready to play. We’re going to be competing to get to the quarterback first,” Avril said.
With Clemons now having passed two critical tests — proving he was ready for practice and getting back into a game — his playing time is only going to increase beginning this week in Houston. Seattle’s pass rush will also get Bruce Irvin back after Sunday’s game with his four-game suspension for using a banned substance wrapped up.
“That was the biggest thing, not having just two guys but having 5-6 different guys that can get after the quarterback. … Once Bruce gets back, we are going to get after it,” Clemons said.
Notes: Seattle signed OL Jason Spitz to take the roster spot of DL D’Anthony Smith, who was released on Tuesday. … DE Red Bryant was held out of practice on Wednesday after leaving Sunday’s game with back spasms, but Carroll expects him to be available Sunday in Houston. … RT Breno Giacomini has a sore knee and did not practice Wednesday. “He’s got some more information to get in and to see where he is. But he got nicked a little bit in this ball game,” Carroll said.