By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — Chris Clemons is back. Well, sort of anyway.
Clemons, the Seattle Seahawks top pass rusher for the past three seasons who is coming back from ACL surgery, will practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury in January. Clemons will not, however, play in Sunday’s season opener in Carolina, head coach Pete Carroll said. Even so, Clemons’ return to the practice field is another indicator that the defensive end won’t miss much of the season.
“Clemons is going to practice on Wednesday,” Carroll said. “We’re really excited about that. He’s had a great preparation to get back. It will be light on Wednesday, but he’s been really busting it. We’ll just bring him along, we’re going to take our time — the tune we’ve been telling you hasn’t changed — we’re going to take our time and make sure he’s ready to go. He will not be consideration for this weekend, but we’re really excited just that he’s back out. We’ll see how he goes.”
Carroll said following the 2012 season that his team’s biggest priority was upgrading the pass rush. And they made several moves in hopes of doing so, but because Clemons is still recovering, and because Bruce Irvin is suspended for the first four game, and because Cliff Avril is battling a hamstring injury, the Seahawks will open 2013 with the pass rush still very much a question mark. Unlike Clemons, Avril has not been ruled out for Sunday, but the fact remains that he hasn’t practiced in two weeks after aggravating a hamstring injury.
“He ran pretty well today,” Carroll said of Avril. “I’m anxious to see what happens later in the week. I watched those guys work out today and he was moving better than I would have thought. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how he takes to this workout today and get another day off and see what happens. I don’t know what that tells us, but it’s good news.”
If Avril and Clemons are indeed out this weekend, the Seahawks will likely be looking at starting O’Brien Schofield at the Leo defensive end spot.
Carroll said receiver Sidney Rice (knee), Stephen Williams (concussion), defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (groin), defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (groin) and guard/tackle Michael Bowie (shoulder) will all practice Wednesday. That doesn’t guarantee any will play Sunday, but is usually a pretty good indicator they will be game ready barring a setback.
On defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who has an injured bicep, Carroll said, “I don’t have a time-line on that one. He’s feeling way better and he’s getting closer. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s not going to be a long time before he gets back.”
The Seahawks were hoping to have fourth-round pick Chris Harper on their practice squad, but instead he’ll play for the rival 49ers. The Seahawks released Harper Saturday, and he went unclaimed off of waivers, so Seattle was going to get him on its practice squad. But that was before the 49ers, who are thin at receiver, decided to offer the rookie a spot on their 53-man roster.
“That’s a gamble that you take, and they picked up a good football player,” Carroll said. “… We were hoping he’d be with us so we could develop him and bring him along, but that’s how it goes.”
The Seahawks released two Pro Bowlers over the weekend, and Carroll said both were tough decisions.
Carroll said releasing fullback Michael Robinson was, “Very difficult. We made a lot of tough decisions, and Mike was one of them. Mike had been with us for a long time. All these guys that left, it hurt us in a sense, because they had bought in and given us everything they had. Mike was a very, very instrumental guy in this football team as we were coming along, so they’re all tough decisions.”
With Robinson gone, Derrick Coleman will be the starting fullback, Carroll said. Rookie Spencer Ware also played some fullback as well as running back, and the Seahawks have also used tight ends as blocking backs lined up in the backfield.
As for three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield, Carroll said that decision was mostly based on the strong play of Walter Thurmond.
“Walter just had a great camp, did a fantastic job for us,” he said. “He’s at the very best he’s been, all over the special team units, returning as well, and we’re really excited for him at the nickel spot. As much as I love Antoine, I’m really excited for Walter to have come through like he did. We’ve all been waiting for him, and he just needed to get healthy and he finally is, and it showed.”
Only two tight ends?
The Seahawks have usually kept three tight ends on their roster, which made the decision to cut Sean McGrath, then not add another tight end, rather surprising. Carroll said the decision to keep only two tight ends, Zach Miller and rookie Luke Willson, had to do with their confidence in Willson, and also the ability of tackle Mike Person to work as a blocking tight end/sixth lineman.
“That gives us a really heavy-duty guy playing tight end as well,” Carroll said.
Kearse to return kicks
It’s hardly a surprise considering Jermaine Kearse returned his only kickoff of the preseason for a 107 yard touchdown, but Carroll said the second-year receiver will handle the Seahawks’ first kick return of the season.
“Kearse is going first,” Carroll said. “He’s got a pretty good average.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.