RENTON — While the news continues to be encouraging for Max Unger, the man in the middle of Seattle’s offensive line, the Seahawks middle linebacker, Bobby Wagner, could very well miss this week’s game against Tennessee with a high ankle sprain.
First the good news: Unger, who has missed the past two games with an arm injury, practiced fully Wednesday and head coach Pete Carroll said they’re expecting the All-Pro to return this week, which is significant for a line that is also missing both starting tackles.
“It’s really good to have him back,” Carroll said. “Lem (Jeanpierre) really did a fine job for us filling in, but Max is really the guy who has the greatest command of what we’re doing up front and he’ll help other guys play well and make the right choices and decisions. And he’ll help the quarterback too in identification, which is important, and which we have missed some over the last couple of weeks, periodically, and that’s made a difference in our pass protection. So we’re counting on that shoring up a little bit more, and having one of your team leaders and a guy like Max coming back is a big deal for us.”
As for Wagner, the second-year linebacker finished last Sunday’s game despite the injury, but did not practice Wednesday, and his status is very much in doubt. Typically high ankle sprains, which are worse than the rolled ankle or “basketball sprain” variety of ankle injuries, keep players out several weeks — running back Spencer Ware has missed three games with a similar injury and did not practice Wednesday. It’s not completely unheard of to play through the injury, however, and Carroll said Wagner thinks he might be able to do just that.
“He thinks he can make it back by game time,” Carroll said. “Again this will go all the way to Sunday.”
If Wagner can’t go, it’s certainly a blow to Seattle’s defense. He was, after all, the team’s leading tackler in 2012 and one of the best rookies in the NFL, but if the Seahawks are without him, they’re still in pretty good shape at linebacker. Weakside linebacker K.J. Wright spent much of his rookie season starting in the middle for an injured David Hawthorne, and if he slides to the middle, Malcolm Smith could easily fill in at Wright’s spot. Smith opened this season starting at strongside linebacker before Bruce Irvin returned from suspension last week. But Smith also played weakside last year, starting two games for an injured Leroy Hill. So regardless of Wagner’s availability, the Seahawks feel like they’ll have three starting-caliber linebackers available Sunday.
“Bobby’s been doing a great job for us,” Carroll said. “Fortunately if he can’t go, K.J. has flexibility and Malcolm can jump right in, he’s been starting games for us, so we really don’t feel like we lose too much in terms of the system and the background and how to play our stuff. But Bobby’s done a fantastic job. He’s been very consistent and he’s made all our calls for us. K.J. can do all of that for us, but in the long run of course you miss him (Wagner). If it’s a game or two or something like that, Malcolm will jump in there and K.J. will fill in and we’ll figure it out. We’re really excited that Bruce came back, he played really well last week as we go back and look at it. His addition will help that group in general as well, and it gives us flexibility in some other things he can do because he’s back. We’re pretty well schooled, so we shouldn’t drop off much.”
Carroll said tight end Zach Miller, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, will likely be a game-day decision. Miller did not practice Wednesday. Cornerback Jeremy Lane (hamstring) and Ware (ankle) were also held out of practice and their status remains up in the air, Carroll said.
With Percy Harvin back in Seattle and giving optimistic updates on Twitter, Carroll was asked if it is possible that the receiver could return as soon as Week 7, which would be the earliest Harvin could come off the physically unable to perform list. Carroll again said Harvin, who is recovering from hip surgery, is making good progress, but that he doesn’t see that happening.
“I don’t think that’s realistic,” he said. “I think that’s too soon to expect that to happen, but it’ll happen when it’s ready and he’s ready to go … get a chance to physically capable of being safe. He is a full-on, full-speed football player. He’s got to be ready to go, and really when he comes back we want him to be ready to endure the rigors of the end of the season. So it’s not important to rush him back. It’s important to wait it out and be patient and get him out there when he’s ready to go and can withstand the load of the game.”
Carroll said he has heard back from the league on some of the controversial calls from Seattle’s loss in Houston, and that the offensive pass interference call on Golden Tate was, as it appeared at the time, the wrong call. The league did not, however, agree with Carroll that the safety that resulted from a blocked punt should have been ruled a touchdown. Jeron Johnson pounced on the ball while sliding out of the end zone, and the ruling that he did not control the ball before going out of bounds stood after a review.
“They felt like they couldn’t tell enough to overturn the call,” Carroll said. “They weren’t willing to trust that he had the ball in his hand that pinned the ball in there, as adeptly as he did. It’s the way they saw it.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.