RENTON — Back from their bye week, with the best record in the NFL and heading into a Monday night showdown with the Saints, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks spent Tuesday dealing with the kinds of distractions they believed were over.
Instead, the Seahawks are adding to the list of player suspensions they’ve faced since Carroll took over in 2010.
“We’re still trying to work through it. I’ll say it again, I’ve always found myself looking for guys that maybe other people don’t see something special in and we take a chance on a guy here or there that needs some extra consideration and care,” Carroll said. “And sometimes guys they have issues and things pop up but I’ve always been kind of hopeful and make guys find the best in them and bring it out. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. We’ll certainly hang with our guys and take care of them.”
Starting cornerback Walter Thurmond was officially suspended Tuesday by the NFL for the team’s next four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, leaving the Seahawks short-handed going into Monday’s matchup against New Orleans.
Thurmond will be eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, Dec. 23, before the final game of the regular season, but his absence leaves a hole in a secondary that was previously missing starting cornerback Brandon Browner because of a groin injury.
Thurmond’s suspension was first reported by NFL.com over the weekend. Thurmond took to Twitter and apologized on Sunday, writing, “Yes I made a mistake and I have to live with the consequences. I’m disappointed in myself for letting my teammates and family down.”
Thurmond’s is the sixth Seattle player officially suspended for substance-abuse or performance-enhancing drugs violations by the league since 2011. That doesn’t include Richard Sherman, whose suspension was overturned on appeal late last season.
“I don’t know that we can expect to be perfect. We would like to be, but that isn’t the case,” Carroll said. “It’s a big challenge for these guys to do right and we want them to do it and carry through and be there when we need them and count on them. It doesn’t always work that way. It presents opportunities for other guys. We’ve always championed that and our guys have always come through and they’ll do that again in this instance.”
Thurmond has started three games this season for Seattle, including the team’s last game against Minnesota when he had his first interception of the season and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Even when he wasn’t starting, Thurmond was a critical member of one of the NFL’s best secondary units as the fifth defensive back in passing situations.
Thurmond beat out veteran Antoine Winfield, whom Seattle signed in the offseason, for the nickel cornerback spot during training camp. He had struggled with injuries throughout his career but was finally healthy and playing well ahead of an offseason where he will be a free agent.
Seattle moved quickly to fill Thurmond’s roster spot, signing veteran Perrish Cox, who worked out for the team recently after being released by San Francisco on Nov. 12. Cox played in 25 games over two seasons with the 49ers in a reserve role after starting nine games for Denver in 2010. Seattle had also worked out former cornerback Marcus Trufant, who has not played this season, before deciding on signing Cox.
The Seahawks are likely to lean on young backups Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell had been seeing more playing time, especially on passing downs when Thurmond would move inside to cover slot receivers. Lane started three games late last season when Browner was serving a four-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs and Thurmond was injured.
Carroll also indicated that DeShawn Shead will be promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, but that move was not made official on Tuesday. Presumably, Shead’s promotion will coincide with a roster move involving Browner, who is also reportedly facing a suspension for a substance-abuse violation.
Shead can play both cornerback and safety. It’s his second season on the Seahawks practice squad and has been getting paid at the same rate as a second-year player on the 53-man roster according to the NFLPA database.
Carroll said despite the continued problems he doesn’t believe his message or approach needs to change.
“We’ll always look to do it better. We’re on it. I think this team is very strong about where we’re going and what we’re doing. Because somebody slips, that doesn’t mean we’re not on track,” Carroll said. “I believe we’re on a tremendous track right now. The focus around here, the dedication to what we’re doing, the standard that we hold them to in all areas. Look at where we are; we’re exemplary in many, many areas and we’re really proud of it. But that doesn’t mean somebody is not going to slip and make a mistake now and then.”
NOTES: Seattle WR Percy Harvin was held out of practice on Tuesday. Carroll reiterated that Harvin is day to day. … WR Jermaine Kearse did practice after suffering a concussion in Seattle’s Week 11 win over Minnesota.