By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — The play was unconventional, putting it nicely.
During the first quarter of Seattle’s win over Minnesota last week, Seahawks punt returner Leon Washington retreated 2 yards deep in the end zone, normally a place where you let the ball hit the turf and take a touchback, bringing the ball out on the 20-yard line.
Instead, Washington caught the ball on a 57-yard boot by Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe and exploded up the field, barely making it past the 20-yard line.
Washington’s questionable decision-making on the play is a sign that’s he’s itching to make the best out of the limited opportunities he’s had in the return game this season.
“No doubt about it,” Washington said. “That’s something that we talk about — when you do have an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it because of that.
“I’m looking forward to later on this season, when the air is a little more chill and the ball doesn’t travel as far, and you’ll get those opportunities.”
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said he usually likes to see his return man let any punt go that’s sailing beyond the 8-yard line.
“That’s going to happen sometimes,” Carroll said. “And on a bombed kick, you can take advantage of a long kick in that situation. He’s an experienced player, and he made it work. But that’s not the way we choose to do it.”
The 30-year-old Washington is sixth in the league in kick returns, averaging 29.1 yards a return, and is tied for 13th in the league in punt returns, averaging 8.5 yards a return.
However, the season is more than half over and Washington has had only 35 chances to make something happen on returns. Last season, Washington finished with 84 punt and kick returns combined in 16 games.
Washington has kick returns for 83 and 69 yards this season, and a punt return for 52 yards, and those explosive plays have helped set up scoring chances for Seattle’s offense. However, Washington hasn’t returned a kick or a punt for a touchdown since Dec. 12, 2010, a 92-yard kick return for a touchdown in a 40-21 loss to San Francisco.
Washington said he’s looking forward to playing against his former team, the New York Jets on Sunday.
A fourth-round selection in the 2006 draft by the Jets, Washington was sent to Seattle in a trade during the 2010 draft, with Seattle sending New York a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Washington and a seventh-round pick.
Washington was coming off a shortened, 2009 season because of a severe broken leg suffered against Oakland, and there was some concern about how he would come back from the injury.
But Washington regained his speed and quickness, and signed a four-year, $12.6 deal to remain in Seattle during the offseason leading up to the 2011 season.
“Our fans here are passionate about their team, but it seems like the fans there, they feel like they own the team, you know what I mean?” Washington said, when asked about the difference between playing in New York and Seattle. “They feel like they own the team, and they can say whatever they want, which if fine — that’s what the fans are there for.”
Thurmond added to roster
The Seahawks activated cornerback Walter Thurmond from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to the active roster on Wednesday.
Seattle cleared a roster spot for Thurmond by releasing receiver Charly Martin, and later adding him to the practice squad once he cleared waivers.
The Seahawks made room for Martin on the practice squad by releasing receiver Lavasier Tuinei.
A fourth-round selection by Seattle in the 2010 draft, Thurmond is returning from a severe broken leg that cut short his 2011 season. He’s been practicing with the team since Oct. 21, and has been working at times as a nickel cornerback with Seattle’s starting defense in practice.
According to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Seahawks had until 21 days after Thurmond’s first practice to activate him from the PUP list, which would have been this Monday.
Thurmond is eligible to play in Sunday’s game against the Jets
The Seahawks had a long list of players watching practice Wednesday.Offensive guard James Carpenter (concussion), receiver Braylon Edwards (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist), defensive end Red Bryant (foot), linebacker K.J. Wright (concussion), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (groin) and safety Kam Chancellor (quad) all did not practice.
Defensive tackle Jason Jones (ankle) returned to practice as a limited participant. Carroll said he expects both Jones and Edwards to be ready to play on Sunday, after missing the past, two games.
Receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle), offensive lineman John Moffitt (knee) and center Max Unger (finger) were full participants.