By John Boyle
The Seahawks got a little deeper at linebacker Monday thanks to the return of Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and fellow outside linebacker Korey Toomer.
Smith, who had offseason ankle surgery, was limited in his return to action, as was Toomer, who had been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“It’s good to see those guys back out there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They’ve been dying to get back on the practice field.
“Tomorrow they’ll try to take a little bit more, and we’ll work them through the week and see what happens, see what that means.”
On Smith, Carroll added: “It’s a great deal to get him back. It’s been a long offseason for him—a highlighted offseason—but it’s still be hard on him getting right. He’s got great versatility, we totally trust him. He’s been with us forever, since like fourth grade, it seems. He’s a real fixture in our defense. We love his flexibility and he’s such a great playmaker, so it’s great to get him back.”
Toomer, who spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury, was one of the bright spots in offseason workouts, but opened camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring injury.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin (hip) could both return to practice next week, Carroll said, though the coach said Irvin might not practice until after Seattle’s final preseason game.
“He’s doing great,” Carroll said of Irvin. “He’s running and changing direction today for the first time. He really feels confident. He doesn’t feel like he feels anything at all. Next week will be really important, this week’s huge to allow him to maybe get some work next week. For sure if everything continues to go, we’ll try to get him work after the Raiders game, but maybe a little bit before that. We’ll see how that goes, but he’s making great progress and he’s really encouraged. He feels like he’s ready to go.”
—Defensive end O’Brien Schofield, one of the standouts of Friday’s win, sat out Monday’s practice, but it was just a rest day according to Carroll. The only other new injury to come out of the game sounds like a minor one, with receiver Bryan Walters getting the day off to rest some sore ribs.
“He got a little banged up in the game,” Carroll said. “He took some bumps and bruises and he needed to rest a little bit. He had some sore ribs or something like that, so we’re just giving him a day off.”
Carroll praised Walter’s play as a kick and punt returner Friday: “He was awesome. Shoot, everybody was fired up about what he brought. He was really a valuable player in that game. You could tell the way he was jumping around making this happen, his great decisions on short balls that saved us yardage and made something out of it, he just showed his savvy and experience. You can tell he’s returned lot of kicks in his lifetime and he’s very comfortable back there.”
—And speaking of the return game, Carroll said the punt return job is still pretty open, noting they haven’t got enough chances to look at everybody thus far, but he did say it’s likely to remain undecided through the preseason.
“We haven’t had very many chances to tell much,” Carroll said. “But Earl (Thomas) seems comfortable back there, (Walters) has done a great job, and a couple of other guys may get their chances in time. We haven’t had enough opportunities to tell in games.”
Paul Richardson expressed interest early on in that job, but Carroll said the rookie receiver is more likely to be involved in kick returns that punt returns.
“We’re thinking of him as a kickoff returner,” Carroll said. “He’s working there, and he’s in the mix. He could play in a game as a kick returner right now.”
—Carroll said he heard back from the league on the controversial illegal contact call that negated a Tharold Simon interception return for a touchdown.
“They said as they observed it that that shouldn’t have been called,” Carroll said.
—The Seahawks showed a new wrinkle in practice Monday with Eric Winston moving from right tackle to left and Alvin Bailey going from left to right.
“We’re just doing it for versatility,” Carroll said.
—Overall, Carroll was pleased with the play of his offensive line, which was much better Friday than a week ago in Denver.
“Really one of the better preseason games I can ever remember us playing,” Carroll said. “As far as the line of scrimmage just coming off the ball, just in that single element, we were really flying off the football.”
In particular, Carroll singled out J.R. Sweezy, noting that they showed several of his blocks in team meetings following the game: “Sweezy played a fantastic half and James (Carpenter) did really well. If you look at Sweezy’s plays, he had a bunch of knock-downs and really aggressive blocks that we were really excited about… Those two guys were really the highlight.”