By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — James Carpenter has received the green light to play in his first game since suffering a severe knee injury that cut short his rookie campaign last season.
Talking to reporters after practice on Friday, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the team’s 2011 first-round pick will play Sunday at St. Louis for the first time in 2012, after making it through this week’s practice healthy.
“That’s a great story for us, and for James,” Carroll said. “To see him back in action and ready to play, hopefully he’ll be able to get some playing time and do some good things, too.”
Carroll would not say if Carpenter will start, but Carpenter has been working at left guard this week with the starters, and the team’s starting left guard the first three games, Paul McQuistan, is capable of moving to right guard.
McQuistan is Seattle’s most versatile lineman, starting three games at left guard, three games at right guard and four games at left tackle last season.
“A lot of guys get tired going from one side to another, it hasn’t happened with him,” Carroll said. “His experience and time with (line coach) Tom Cable before (coming to Seattle) has helped, so he’s a valuable guy for us in that regard.”
Carpenter started at left guard the first game of the 2011 season against San Francisco, then moved to right tackle when Robert Gallery was available in Week 2. The Alabama product started eight games at right tackle last season before an injury suffered during a pass-blocking drill required knee surgery last December.
Seattle’s starting right guard last week, John Moffitt, did not practice this week because of a knee issue he suffered in Monday’s game against Green Bay. He is doubtful for Sunday’s contest against St. Louis.
Carroll said the team thought at one time it might be eight games into the season before Carpenter could get back, which meant he could have been placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list to begin the regular season.
“I didn’t want to go on PUP,” Carpenter said. “I worked hard this whole offseason trying not to get on PUP. That was my motivation.
“I feel like I’m ready. Even though I was rehabbing, I was still watching film and doing technique and stuff, so I feel like I’m ready.”
Carroll said Carpenter looks strong, but is not yet in game shape. Carroll also is concerned with the chemistry of the offensive line. The Seahawks will start their third different offensive line combination in four weeks if Carpenter starts Sunday.
“I’m really concerned about that,” Carroll said. “Carp (Carpenter) has not had a lot of experience anyway; his playing time has been limited just from the past. He hasn’t played a game all year. We have to find out how he does, we don’t know how he’s going to do.”
It’s a drill you often see youth football teams executing at the end of practice — an entire offense going down the field in unison, 5 yards at a time, as the quarterback barks out the signals to make sure no one goes off sides.
That’s what Carroll had to resort to this week, as Seattle’s offensive unit has totaled 13 pre-snap penalties through three weeks, most in the NFL. Last year during training camp, Cable made players run a lap every time they jumped off sides as discipline for the infraction during practice.
“It’s something extra there so we don’t do it in the game,” Seattle offensive tackle Breno Giacomini said of the new drill. “As stupid and silly as it sounds, it works. Running didn’t work, so hopefully this will work.”
Offensive tackle Russell Okung leads Seattle in false starts with four, followed by tight end Anthony McCoy with two.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has been called for delay of game four times.
The Seahawks are second in the league in accepted penalties with 32.
“We’re trying to get these guys to settle down and make sure that we’re sharp and clean and all that,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to play at our best until we get rid of that stuff.”
Linebacker Leroy Hill did not practice for a second straight day Friday, but Carroll said the plan is for the 30-year-old veteran to play on Sunday. Second-year pro Malcolm Smith is Hill’s backup. Hill is questionable for Sunday. Giacomini returned to practice after sitting out most of the week with a pectoral injury, and is expected to play Sunday. Giacomini is listed as probable. Along with Hill, defensive tackle Jaye Howard (foot) and tight end Anthony McCoy (groin) are questionable. Howard did not practice after he got his foot stepped on Thursday, according to Carroll. McCoy was a limited participant in practice Friday. Defensive tackle Jason Jones (knee), defensive tackle Greg Scruggs (wrist), receiver Doug Baldwin (shoulder) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (hamstring) all fully participated in practice and are probable. … For St. Louis, safety Matt Daniels (hamstring) and offensive tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) are out. Defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee) is doubtful. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) and running back Steven Jackson (groin) are questionable, but both are expected to play. Offensive tackle Wayne Hunter (ankle) did not practice and is questionable, but is expected to start at left tackle in place of Saffold. … Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner was fined $7,875 by the league for unnecessary roughness against Green Bay. The NFL did not identify what play he received the fine for.