RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks began their week with news that two key players, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and tight end Zach Miller, are out for the remainder of the season. By the end of the week, however, the injury news had taken a slightly more positive turn for Seattle.
Safety Kam Chancellor, linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Luke Willson are all likely to play Sunday in Kansas City, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. In the case of Chancellor and Smith, both return from two-game absences caused by groin injuries, while Willson has made a faster-than-expected recovery from an ankle injury suffered in last week’s game. Willson is officially listed as questionable, but did practice fully, and Carroll said he, like Chancellor and Smith, should play if things go well in pregame warm-ups.
“We had some surprises of guys coming back,” Carroll said. “Luke Willson really had a great week and we were a little surprised at that. Kam’s OK, and Malcolm Smith had a great week, and we’re really pleased about that. It’s been a while since he’s be back out with us.”
In the case of Chancellor, the two-game layoff could be a blessing in disguise going forward. Chancellor did not miss any games this season prior to this injury, but had been limited in practice by both ankle and hip problems, and at times it was pretty clear he was playing at less than 100 percent. Chancellor had hip surgery in the offseason, and at one point early this year his ankle problem was bad enough that surgery was considered. Taking two weeks off to recover from that groin injury also gave him a chance to let other injuries heal.
“It’s been a long haul for him through the offseason, rehabbing and all that kind of stuff so he’s looking forward to good health and he feels good this week,” Carroll said. “Hopefully we can put some weeks back-to-back for him and he can get a little momentum going here to finish the year … In general he’s had to take care of more than one thing, so anytime guys get a break like that it does help.
Smith’s return, as well as a glute injury that has linebacker Brock Coyle doubtful, will likely lead to another shuffle at linebacker with K.J. Wright again playing middle linebacker, and a combination of Smith, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Bruce Irvin taking care of outside linebacker duties.
Marshawn Lynch returned to practice after missing the last two days with calf and rib injuries, and while that would seemingly be a good sign that he’s fine for Sunday’s game, the Seahawks did list him as questionable.
Despite that designation, Carroll’s comments on Lynch, as well as the fact that Lynch was a full-go in practice, would strongly point to the Pro Bowl running back being on the field Sunday.
“He’s just banged up,” Carroll said. “In years past, we’ve always given him a lot of consideration to get him right. He’s worked hard to make he stays abreast at what he can do, and he practiced well today.”
The Seahawks will likely be without guard James Carpenter (ankle), cornerback Marcus Burley (hamstring) and Coyle, all of whom are listed as doubtful.
Cornerback Jeremy Lane was limited in practice and is questionable with a sore groin a week after returning from an eight-week absence because of a groin injury.
“He practiced today and did well, and he’s running with the trainers to make sure he’s OK,” Carroll said. “He was a little sore after the week, so we’ll see how he goes. I can’t tell you anymore than that until we get to game time … He did a nice job today in practice, so that’s a good sign.”
If Lane can’t play, the Seahawks would have to make an adjustment at the nickel cornerback spot with Burley unlikely to play. Carroll said Byron Maxwell will go back to starting at right cornerback, but he could slide inside in nickel packages with Tharold Simon playing outside.
Simon has started four games at right cornerback while Maxwell recovered from a calf injury. Another option would be to play safety Steven Terrell in the nickel spot, something he did earlier this season when injuries forced Burley to play on the outside.
Moeaki to make debut
Carroll said tight Tony Moeaki will play and be involved in the game plan this week after being inactive last week just days after signing with Seattle. Coincidentally, Moeaki will make his Seahawks debut in Kansas City, where he played from 2010-2013.
“We were really excited about him the first week and thought to play him, but we just felt he would be too limited because he just didn’t have enough time to learn enough stuff,” Carroll said. “He’s picked things up, he’s practiced with the first group all week long in and out, so he’s definitely part of the game plan.”
Tukuafu ready for double duty
Will Tukuafu, who was recently added to replace injured fullback Derrick Coleman, did work with the defensive line this week, and could play there to help provide depth with injuries taking their toll. Tukuafu spent time at fullback and defensive end while with San Francisco.
“He’s really been a great surprise,” Carroll said. “Will has really picked up on what we’re asking him to do on offense. I’m surprised how easy that has been for him. We’ve worked him more at defense to give us some backup help. He has played quite a bit more defense than fullback, so he jumped in there and did some good stuff. He’s a very mobile, very aggressive kid, so we’re happy to get him in anywhere we can.”
Wagner back next week?
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will miss a fifth straight game with a turf toe injury, but he is running and has a chance to make it back next week.
“Everything is going great to get him a shot to get back next week,” Carroll said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s a two week process that maybe he can jump ahead of that, that’s kind of what we’re hoping for.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org