Despite distractions, Carroll vows Hawks will ‘march on’

RENTON — Pete Carroll is disappointed that the Seahawks must go forward at a crucial time of the season without two key cornerbacks — Walter Thurmond, who was suspended four games Tuesday by the NFL for violating the league’s drug policy, and injured Brandon Browner, who reportedly is facing a drug-related suspension.

The Seahawks coach does not, however, fear that their absences or any potential distractions caused by their situations will derail the momentum of his 10-1 team.

“Not a bit,” Carroll said after his team returned to practice Tuesday following its bye week. “It’s a very difficult situation for the individual, but for us, we’ll march on and be OK with it. But we’ll miss him.”

Carroll said “him” and not “them” because until Browner’s suspension becomes official — it’s still in the appeals process — the coach is prohibited from discussing it by the collective bargaining agreement. But with Browner sidelined by an injury at this point anyway, his seasons appears over regardless of how the process plays out.

So now the Seahawks have to move forward without two of their top three cornerbacks while also battling the perception that they’re a franchise with a discipline problem. Thurmond will be eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, Dec. 23, before the final game of the regular season, which is at home against St. Louis.

The Seahawks now are likely to lean on young backups Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell had been seeing more playing time, especially on passing downs when Thurmond would move inside to cover slot receivers. Lane started three games late last season when Browner was serving a four-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs and Thurmond was injured.

Carroll sees Thurmond’s transgression as a mistake that he obviously would not have his team dealing with right now, but that doesn’t make him believe that he, his coaching staff and the front office need to completely overhaul the way they get messages across to their players.

“We’ll always look to do it better, but we’re on it, and I think this team is very strong about where we’re going and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to create,” Carroll said. “Because somebody slips, that doesn’t mean that we’re not on track. I think we’re on a tremendous track right now; the focus around here, the dedication to what we’re doing, the standard that we hold them to in all areas. Look at where we are, they’ve been exemplary in many, many areas and we’re really proud of it, but that doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t going to slip and make a mistake now and then.”

Yet despite Carroll’s positive attitude — would you expect anything else? — the evidence points to a team that has had an unusual amount of suspensions in recent years. Granted there have been much more serious transgressions involving NFL players than anything a Seahawks player has been accused of or suspended for under Carroll’s watch.

Still, the fact remains that, under Carroll’s watch, five players have served four-game suspensions for performance enhancing drug violations — Browner, Bruce Irvin, John Moffitt, Allen Barbre and Winston Guy. Now, Thurmond has been suspended under the league’s substance abuse policy and Browner might be again.

The Seahawks have since parted ways with three of those players who were supsended by the league, and with Browner reportedly facing a one-year ban and heading into free agency, his Seahawks career is likely over, too. However, the Seahawks still have the appearance, right or wrong, of a franchise that has a hard time getting through to its players.

Making matters worse is that, after Irvin’s suspension was announced in May, there was talk by Carroll and players about making sure everyone understood what was at stake this season; about not letting their decisions hurt the team. Six months later, however, two key players are unavailable because of the types of judgment errors the team was hoping to prevent when veteran leaders called a team meeting last spring.

“You’d like to think so,” Carroll said when asked if he though the talk last spring would have prevented future transgressions. “But there are a lot of guys in this program, and I don’t know that we can expect to be perfect. We’d like to be, but that isn’t the case. It’s a big challenge for these guys to do right, and we want them all to do it and carry through and be there when we need them and are counting on them; it doesn’t always work out that way.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Two corners added

With depth suddenly a concern at cornerback, the Seahawks signed Perrish Cox, a former fifth-round pick who most recently played in San Francisco before being released earlier this year. Cox, who has appeared in 40 career games, starting nine, can play the nickel corner spot as well as play outside, Carroll said, and is also a versatile special teams player.

The Seahawks also will add DeShawn Shead to the 53-man roster off of their practice squad, Carroll said. The move has not officially been made yet, and there’s no hurry to do so before the weekend since Shead can already practice this week as a member of the practice squad. Shead presumably will replace Browner on the roster, either when Browner’s suspension becomes official or with Seattle placing him on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Harvin sits, Kearse cleared

Percy Harvin did not participate in what was an extra practice with the team coming off a bye. “We held him out today, and we’re going to just keep working through,” Carroll said. “We rehabbed him today. It’s always day-to-day right now.”

Jermaine Kearse, who suffered a concussion in Seattle’s win over Minnesota, has been cleared and returned to practice.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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