By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks are 9-1, coming off of their most impressive and complete victory of the season, and they’ve built that record playing six of their first 10 away from home, meaning a favorable finishing stretch awaits.
And now the reinforcements are on the way.
It may not seem fair to the rest of the NFC, but just as Seattle’s offense looks to be hitting its stride — the Seahawks had a season-high 490 yards in Sunday’s 33-10 victory over Atlanta — the Seahawks are set to add several significant players on that side of the ball. Most notably receiver Percy Harvin, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list Monday. Additionally the Seahawks could welcome back three starting linemen this week: center Max Unger, who missed Sunday’s game with a concussion, and tackles Breno Giacomini (knee) and Russell Okung (toe), who have both been out since early in the season.
“It’s a very upbeat feeling around our locker room right now,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “These guys are excited to see Russell and Breno getting back in, Max comes back to us this week as well, and hopefully if everything works out right during the week, those guys return. There’s a chance all three of those guys could play this week for us. The potential of Percy coming back just adds to that.”
Although before everyone gets too excited, it’s worth noting that Carroll made no guarantees that any of those injured players will play for sure this week. In the case of Harvin, he had to come off of the PUP list this week or be out for the season. Once a player on PUP returns to practice, which Harvin did three weeks ago, a team has 21 days to either add them to the 53-man roster or lose that player for the remainder of the season. So unless Harvin had suffered a catastrophic setback in recent weeks, he was going to be activated this week at the latest, regardless of his status for Sunday’s game against Minnesota. Carroll also admitted that Seattle’s Week 12 bye could be a factor in the timing of bringing these injured players back, noting that sitting an a player this week would give him an additional two weeks off. Even so, the fact that Harvin, Giacomini, Okung, and likely Unger are all expected to practice this week bodes well for Seattle’s chances down the stretch.
“This time when the push is really on right now, a very intense time during the season for all the clubs to try to put it together to get situated well here at the end, and to have that kind of boost is big for us,” Carroll said. “The focus of the young guys (rookie linemen Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey) who have played is really obvious to us too. We’ve come a long ways with our guys and they’ve played football and they could play in this game this weekend and we’d be fine. That just adds to our depth and our options and opportunities to keep guys fresh and hopefully be stronger in the finish of the season.
“We haven’t rushed in any of these decisions, we’re not going to start rushing them now. We’ll just take the information and evaluate each guy and figure out what it means, knowing that we’re OK. We’re OK where we are, so we’re not pressed to make a decision hastily.”
Asked what he needs to see out of Harvin to know if the receiver will play Sunday against his former team, Carroll said, “He’s just got to practice every day and show that all that he’s done in the rehab work has paid off and that he can sustain through each day. It’s really the next day that we always look at; he makes his day and how does he feel the next day? We’ll just see how that goes. To us it’s not a pressure decisions. We’ll really consider all the factors and make sure we’re doing this right.”
Okung and Giacomini both practiced last week, and barring a setback, it’s likely both will play against Minnesota, though Carroll noted they could rotate linemen to ease their transition back. Traditionally teams stick with the same five linemen throughout a game unless injury requires a change. But Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable have shown a willingness to mix and match, going back to last season when guard J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt regularly split time. In Sunday’s game, Bailey played 35 of 69 offensive snaps, playing both left tackle and right guard. Paul McQuistan started at left tackle and also played guard while Bailey was in at tackle.
“We’re going to use all of the options, and it’s going to be very competitive which is great,” Carroll said. “It’s just the way we needed it to be at this time. Guys are competing for playing time, the young guys too. Just because those guys come back doesn’t mean that they have to play the whole game. They haven’t played in a while, so we easily could see rotations to keep those guys fresh.”
Browner has “substantial” groin injury
While the injury news is good on the on one side of the ball, the Seahawks could be without starting cornerback Brandon Browner for a while. Browner left Sunday’s game with a groin injury, and Carroll didn’t sound optimistic when asked about the former Pro Bowler.
“It looks pretty serious,” Carroll said. “We’ll know more later in the week here. He’s got a substantial groin issue here we’ve got to figure out.”
Asked if the injury could be season-ending, Carroll didn’t rule out that possibility, saying, “We’ll find out. Don’t know. Need a few days here.”
The good news for Seattle is that if Browner is out for a while or even for the season, that is a position at which the Seahawks are well positioned to withstand a loss. Walter Thurmond has played well as Seattle’s nickel corner all season, and handled an increased role well stepping into a starting role when Browner missed two games with a hamstring injury early in the season. Byron Maxwell also played well, coming onto the field in nickel situations to play Browner’s right cornerback spot with Thurmond moving inside to the nickel spot.
“Those guys have always performed well when called on,” Carroll said. “We feel really good about those guys, they’re tested, they’ve started games, they’ve played a lot. Jeremy (Lane) can play as well, so we’re in good shape at the position. Of course, if we’re going to miss Brandon it’s going to be significant because he’s a terrific football player for us, but we do have really capable guys to step in.”
Carroll said that both Unger and defensive end Red Bryant, who both sat out Sunday’s game with concussions, are day-to-day this week, but added that, “they both look like they’re going to make it back.” … Rookie DT Michael Brooks was released to make room on the roster for Harvin. Brooks, who Seattle signed off its practice squad Saturday, was on the field for 15 plays Sunday, making a tackle for no gain on the first play of his NFL career. He must clear waivers if the Seahawks want to re-sign him to the practice squad.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.