By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – Ken Lucas was driving his car when the news came down that Shawn Springs, his Seattle Seahawks teammate, had been suspended for four games after violating the league’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. The message came in the form of a cellular phone call from another teammate, but it might as well have come from above.
“I just realized my time has come again,” Lucas said of his reaction. “I’ve been patient, asking the Lord, ‘Whenever you call my name again, I’ll be ready to play.’”
Lucas’ name will be called again this Sunday, when the Seahawks rookie will make his fourth career start in a game against the San Diego Chargers. Springs is not even allowed on the sidelines while he serves the first game of his suspension.
Lucas has filled in before, having started the first three games of the season while Springs sat out with a hamstring injury. Lucas’ first start came without incident, as he helped the Seahawks to a 9-6 win over the Cleveland Browns. But things got progressively worse from there, including back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Oakland in which he gave up touchdown receptions.
“At the beginning of the season, my attitude was that I didn’t want to lose a game. So I was playing kind of timid,” Lucas said. “Now I’m more aggressive, I’m playing like I did my last year in college. I’m going out there and playing like I’m capable of playing.”
Coach Mike Holmgren wasted no time in selecting Lucas over Ike Charlton and Paul Miranda as the starter in Springs’ absence.
“He got picked on a little early,” Holmgren said. “With rookie corners in the league, it’s tough. To say he’s as confident as he was when he came walking into training camp, he’s probably not as confident. But now he’s got to play again.
“I like him as a player. He’s going to be fine. It’s tough to play as a rookie, but he’s what we’ve got. This is the home stretch, no excuses, let’s play.”
Springs’ suspension expected: Holmgren officially learned of Springs’ suspension Tuesday, but he wasn’t totally blind-sided by the news.
Holmgren said Springs actually took a positive urine test during training camp, although it has been under review for almost four months.
“Shawn brought me into the loop early,” Holmgren said. “He went through the normal appeals process that the league has, and then we just waited for the decision.”
Holmgren is limited by league confidentiality rules from getting into specifics regarding the case. He is not allowed to pinpoint the date of the positive test, or to reveal the substance that was in Springs’ system.
But the timetable shows that the test in question actually came before he suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason opener. There had been widespread speculation that Springs may have used an illegal substance in an effort to heal the hamstring.
“It’s very disappointing for us, and very disappointing for him, obviously,” Holmgren said of the suspension. “Now we’ve just got to move forward. … I believe it was unintentional, but it happened.”
While Holmgren had been close to the situation since early August, some of Springs’ teammates were shocked by the news.
“I think everyone was surprised,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I’m sure Shawn was surprised. I’m sure it wasn’t anything intentional. … You don’t want to say it could happen to anybody, but it could happen. There are a lot of things that are illegal now. You really have to be careful.”
LaBounty re-signed: Springs’ suspension left a roster spot open, and Holmgren quickly filled it by re-signing veteran defensive end Matt LaBounty.
The 32-year-old LaBounty was signed to give the team more depth on the defensive line while Lamar King recovers from a calf injury. King is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
LaBounty practiced with the team on Wednesday and said he’s happy to be back.
“Sitting back and watching on Sundays, you realize how much you miss playing,” LaBounty said. “I’m really looking forward to playing.”
LaBounty was released following training camp after spending the past five seasons of his nine-year NFL career with the Seahawks.
“I’ve done a lot of hunting and camping and fishing,” he said. “All the good stuff, the stuff I’d planned on doing when I was done playing football. It just happened earlier than I expected.”
LaBounty can expect to make around $160,000 for the remainder of the season and is expected to play in Sunday’s game.
“It’s not one of these things where you sign a guy and then he doesn’t play for weeks,” Holmgren said. “Matt’s from Oregon. He climbs trees and talks to squirrels. He came in with a big beard, and I go, ‘Boy, you look like you’ve been working out. I’m going to play you Sunday, you know that?’”
Quick slants: In addition to King, three other Seahawks are on the injury report for this week. Running back Ricky Watters will not play due to a shoulder injury, tackle Chris McIntosh is questionable with a neck stinger, and safety Marcus Robertson is probable with a sore hamstring. … About 15,000 tickets remain for Sunday’s home game against San Diego.