RENTON — Defensive end Ziggy Ansah is cleared to make his Seattle Seahawks debut Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. And receiver David Moore has likewise been given the okay to play for the first time this season.
But as often happens in the NFL, as a few players return a few others hit the injury list and Seattle could play Sunday without two players who suffered injuries this week in practice — starting right cornerback Tre Flowers and running back Rashaad Penny. Or, at the very least, they may need to make sure they have other players ready to go at their spots.
Each was officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game — Flowers with an ankle injury that occurred Thursday and Penny with a hamstring injury that coach Pete Carroll said occurred roughly 20 minutes before he met the media following Friday’s practice.
Carroll said both Flowers and Penny would be gametime decisions. Flowers sat out all of practice Friday.
“It wasn’t severe at all, but something happened that we had to hold him back,” Carroll said of Flowers, who has missed only one game in his Seattle career.
As for Penny, who is the backup tailback to starter Chris Carson, Carroll said: “We’re putting him down as questionable until we know more. Just happened about 20 minutes ago.”
Seattle listed two players as doubtful — cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hamstring) and offensive lineman Ethan Pocic (neck). And along with Penny and Flowers, safety Tedric Thompson (hamstring) was also listed as questionable.
But everyone else is considered good to go, including defensive tackle Poona Ford (calf) and offensive lineman Joey Hunt (ankle) who each missed last week’s game. Also among those expected to play is starting receiver Jaron Brown, who was listed as limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday with a toe injury.
For Ansah, Sunday will mark his first game since Dec. 9 when he was with the Detroit Lions. He then went on injured reserve to have surgery to repair a torn labrum and that injury was in part why he was still available for the Seahawks to sign in May to a one-year deal with a base value of up to $9 million. The contract includes playing time incentives of $3 million, including $93,750 for every game he is on the active roster.
But more important than money for Ansah is simply being able to resume his career after playing just seven games last season.
“Super excited,” Ansah declared himself of getting to play for the Seahawk, as well as teaming with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was acquired in a trade shortly before the season. Signing Ansah and trading for Clowney helped the Seahawks fill what was considered a major need — pass rush — in the wake of the trade of Frank Clark to Kansas City in April.
Ansah was listed as questionable prior to the first two games with a thought he might play each time. But Ansah said he and the team each decided the cautious approach was best to avoid any re-injury that could sideline him again.
“It’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Ansah said.
Carroll said the extra two weeks of practice may help Ansah to be more ready for his Seahawks debut (and that Seattle won both games without him only helps).
“He’s in better shape than sometimes when a guy is just coming back,” Carroll said. “We’ll be able to get him a bunch of plays here in this game.”
If Flowers can’t go, the Seahawks would have several options for who to start at cornerback alongside Shaquill Griffin on the left side.
Assuming Thorpe is also out, Seattle’s backup cornerbacks are Jamar Taylor and Akeem King. Taylor is listed as a backup on the right side, where Flowers plays.
But Taylor also is the team’s primary nickel, a role he returned to last week after re-signing with the Seahawks prior to the game against the Steelers. Taylor has started games in the NFL both outside and in the slot, and has 41 overall NFL starts, which might make him the most obvious option.
King has one NFL start. But that came in a similar situation last year when he replaced King in the second game of the year against the Bears when Flowers had a hamstring injury.
Seattle could use Taylor both as a starter on the right side and then move him inside to the nickel with King coming in to play outside — the Seahawks have done something similar with other players in the past — or just start King on the outside.
Amadi at the moment is considered mostly a nickel corner and safety, so he could factor into nickel alignments.
Seattle also has cornerback Parry Nickerson on the practice squad, a player the Seahawks traded for before the season — giving a conditional seventh-round pick to the Jets — then waived, and then brought back. If Seattle feels it needs depth at cornerback, adding him to the active roster by Saturday would be the most logical move.
Ford sat out last week with a calf issue but is now back. With Ansah expected to play the Seahawks will have all nine defensive linemen healthy for the first time this season and may have an interesting decision to make whether to keep all nine active for Sunday.
Hunt has not played this season due to a high ankle sprain suffered in a preseason game against the Chargers. But he is now healthy and could be active Sunday to help fill in the depth on the OL if Pocic cannot play.
Penny has 80 yards on 16 carries this season including a 37-yarder for a key touchdown in last Sunday’s win at Pittsburgh.
If he can’t play the Seahawks would give more time to C.J. Prosise, who last week played almost solely in a two-minute drill to end the first half.
“C.J. is ready to go,” Carroll said. “He’s been practicing great; he’s done well when we put him in. He can’t wait to get more reps. So, if he gets a chance to play, we won’t even hesitate to have him mix into all that. He’ll go right with the guys.”