By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald understands the importance of the final preseason game, and how it factors into earning a spot on an NFL roster.
Entering his fifth season, McDonald will start at nose tackle for the Seahawks against Oakland tonight in place of Brandon Mebane, who’s nursing a groin injury.
The University of Memphis product has been a steady contributor as part of Seattle’s regular rotation at defensive tackle since joining the team in a trade for cornerback Kelly Jennings with Cincinnati during training camp in August 2011.
“He’s a really football-smart guy,” Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “You can tell with the notes he takes and the work that he puts in that he’s earned so much respect from his teammates, and us as coaches, too, by the way he works at it.”
McDonald said he will be focused on one thing against the Raiders — doing his job to the best of his ability.
“I’m just a part of this team,” McDonald said. “I’m just a small part of what makes it run. And whatever contributions I bring, we all as individuals come together, and try to get it together for the team.”
For cornerback Ron Parker, tonight’s game is one last opportunity to show Seattle’s coaching staff that he’s healthy.
At the beginning of training camp, Parker had worked himself into the rotation at cornerback with the second unit. But a nagging hamstring injury kept him on the sidelines for the entire exhibition season up until this week.
“It’s real frustrating, because I was playing at a high level, and really had got my confidence up to the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Parker said. “So it was just frustrating just sitting back. But I came back with the same confidence, and I’m ready to rock.”
One of fastest players on Seattle’s roster, if Parker plays well, he could make Seattle’s cuts at cornerback tough, particularly with veteran players like Antoine Winfield fighting for playing time in the team’s talented defensive backfield.
The Seahawks could save $1 million in salary cap space by releasing Winfield in favor of younger, inexpensive talent like Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Parker.
“Thursday is probably the most important day of my life,” Parker said. “That’s how I feel. And that’s how I’m going to take it. I feel like it’s the most important thing coming up, so that’s what my mindset is for Thursday. I need to have a big day, and that’s the plan.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll discussed the tough decisions ahead, with the team needing cut players and turn into the league its final 53-man roster on Saturday. The Seahawks can begin compiling an eight-man practice squad on Sunday.
This year’s cuts will be much more difficult for the organization than when Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived over three years ago.
“It’s a much different time for us,” Carroll said. “John was madly scouring everybody else’s list to fill up our roster at that time. We’re still doing that, and will compete like crazy at that. But it’s not going to apply nearly as much.
“We know guys on our team are going to go to other teams and play. We know that, and we’re proud of that. Sometimes you can’t tell. We have to make a decision now, and maybe that guy a month from now is a better player than the guy (you keep) — that’s how close it is in some situations. In some situations, you just don’t want to let the guy go. And we have guys we just don’t want to cut, but we’re going to have to make those choices.”