Who will return kicks for Seahawks?

RENTON — Through the ups and downs of the past three seasons, head coach Pete Carroll’s Seahawks could count one thing being constant throughout the rebuilding process that has turned Seattle into one of the NFC’s top teams:

Regardless of what else was going right or wrong, for the Seahawks, they knew they had in Leon Washington a kick returner capable of making a big play every time he touched the ball.

Now that certainty is gone, replaced by a group of talented but mostly unproven candidates to fill the role Washington held down so well for three seasons before being released this offseason. When the Seahawks acquired Percy Harvin, they not only got a dynamic receiver, but one of the few return men arguably better than Washington — hence the decision to cut the Pro Bowl returner. But now that Harvin is out following hip surgery, a position that was once a sure thing for the Seahawks is now very much a question mark.

“We have to figure this one out,” Carroll said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with that spot yet.”

Receiver Golden Tate is likely going to take over Washington’s role as the team’s primary punt returner, and while Carroll said they like Tate as a kick returner too, the Seahawks may be hesitant to put a starting receiver on full-time kick and punt return duties.

“I am concerned about him doing both and him taking all of those reps,” Carroll said. “He’s capable and he’s good at that and all that. But I would like to get another guy as well. Have a rotation at least.”

That rotation, Carroll said, will include Tate, rookie running back Christine Michael, cornerback Jeremy Lane, receiver Bryan Walters, and cornerback Will Blackmon. Even if Harvin had been healthy, he likely would not have handled every kickoff, so finding another capable returner was going to be in the plans this preseason anyway, but Harvin’s injury makes it a much bigger priority.

“Golden can do it and he’s really well equipped to do that, so I’m OK knowing that, but we need to find out who the guys who are going to back up at this time, then see who can vie to get it done,” Carroll said. “I would love to see Jeremy Lane back there and see what he can do, because he has tremendous speed, he’s been working hard at it, and it’d be great to see Christine Michael back there to see what he can do.”

Turbin off PUP List

Carroll said running back Robert Turbin (foot) passed his physical and will come off the Physically Unable to Perform list. Carroll said Turbin would take part in Sunday afternoon’s walkthrough and practice today. Tight end Zach Miller, who is also on the PUP list with a foot injury, is not as far along as Turbin, but Carroll said the hope is to have him back by the third preseason game.

Fullback Michael Robinson was among those out of action, resting the sore ankle that sidelined him for a couple of days early in camp. Wide receiver Stephen Williams was out with a sore neck after being upended by safety Winston Guy on Friday. Linebacker Bruce Irvin sat with a groin injury, but Carroll said he thinks Irvin will be OK for Thursday’s preseason opener. Returning to action after a day off were receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Kam Chancellor. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was also back in action after missing two days with a sore shoulder. Defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) who has now missed six practices, is close to back, Carroll said, though he won’t likely play Thursday.

Fighting over a nickel

Cornerback Walter Thurmond spent a lot of time with the No. 1 nickel defense Sunday, and it looks more and more like he really will push three-time Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield for that job.

“This is going to be a real battle,” Carroll said.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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