Injuries shred Seahawks defense

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, December 10, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

DENVER – Midway through the third quarter, Kerry Joseph felt a stinging sensation shoot up his leg. His left knee was hurting, pretty bad in fact, but he stayed in the game. He shook off the pain on a cold Sunday afternoon at Mile High Stadium, and got back in the huddle.

Joseph’s actions weren’t completely chivalrous. The Seahawks’ safety literally had to stay on the field.

Three defensive starters had already been knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, including free safety Jay Bellamy, and cornerback Willie Williams would later miss a series because of an injury. So Joseph had no choice but to carry on.

“We were running out of people,” Joseph said after finishing the game on a bruised knee, “so I had to get up and play the best I could play with it.”

Bellamy’s injury came first, as the veteran free safety experienced back cramps after a first-quarter interception return. Joseph, the starting strong safety, slid over to Bellamy’s position while Reggie Tongue came off the bench to take Joseph’s spot. In nickel situations, rookie Maurice Kelly – the only other healthy safety on the roster – saw his first extensive action of the season.

The new-look safeties did an admirable job in helping to limit Denver to its second-lowest offensive output of the season. The 313 yards allowed were 117 below the Broncos’ season average, which was tops in the AFC coming into the game.

Tongue, a starter until Joseph replaced him at strong safety in Week 7, gave the credit to his defensive backfield mate.

“Kerry’s probably the most versatile guy back there,” Tongue said. “He can pretty much do it all. As long as he’s somewhere, we’ll be fine.”

Defensive end Lamar King was the next to go down. He dislocated his left shoulder trying to recover a fumble in the second quarter, suffering what coach Mike Holmgren said was the most serious of Seattle’s injuries Sunday.

“Lamar probably will be iffy for the rest of the season because (trainers) had to put the shoulder back in,” Holmgren said.

Veteran Matt LaBounty filled in for King and had four tackles.

The defensive line took another hit when defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy tore a ligament in his thumb late in then third quarter. His replacement came in the form of second-year defensive tackle Antonio Cochran, meaning the Seahawks finished the game with only one healthy defensive lineman (Michael Sinclair) who has at least one full season of experience as an NFL starter.

“It would have been a little more odd if we hadn’t been doing the things we’ve been doing the past couple weeks,” defensive tackle Riddick Parker said of the personnel shifts. “A lot of the young guys have been getting playing time, so it’s not that different with a younger guy in there. You’ve just got to keep rolling.”

Williams’ injury was minor, and the team did not suffer while rookie Ike Charlton replaced him for a series in the fourth quarter. Williams eventually returned to the field to finish the game.

By the time the final gun went off, he was one of the few veterans still out there. Seattle’s hobbled defense had to carry on with a cast of backups happy to make the most of their opportunities.

“It’s part of the deal,” Tongue said. “You never go through a season with everybody being healthy. Fortunately, we have talented guys backing up talented guys. We’re fortunate in that aspect in case something goes wrong.”

Holmgren said he’d have a better handle on the severity of the players’ injuries today. Bellamy is scheduled to undergo a test on his back, while Kennedy and King will also be further evaluated.

“That’s a real good offensive football team Denver has, and they had beaten us up pretty good (two weeks ago),” Holmgren said. “So I thought the guys played rather inspired today. We (turned the ball over) and gave them 14 points, really, and that was too bad. You’re not going to hold them down forever. But all in all, I think our defense played well today.”

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