Seahawks notebook: Wagner back, defense getting healthy

RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks have lost a few key players for the season, and center Max Unger is out this week with ankle and knee injuries, but if you’re looking for a reason for optimism, look to Seattle’s defense, which is as healthy as it has been since early in the season.

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who missed the past five games with a turf toe injury, practiced fully on Thursday and Friday, and is expected to play Sunday. His return, along with the recent returns of injured players like safety Kam Chancellor, cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane, and linebacker Malcolm Smith means Seattle’s defense is close to being at full strength for the first time since the fifth game of the season against Dallas.

One notable absence is that of defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who is out for the season with a torn hamstring. Other than Mebane, all of Seattle’s Week 1 starters, as well as most of their key backups, are available for Sunday’s game.

“We’re getting right at the right time,” Wagner said.

In addition to getting Wagner back, the Seahawks might have the best version of Chancellor that they’ve seen since the start of the season. Chancellor battled through hip and ankle injuries early this season, then missed two games because of a groin injury. Chancellor returned to action last week, and after two good weeks of practice, head coach Pete Carroll said the Pro Bowl safety is the best he’s been all year.

“He’s at the best he’s been,” Carroll said. “He’s quick, he’s determined, he’s really on it, he didn’t miss a snap. This is the best week of preparation coming off a game that he’s had, so that’s a really good sign.”

In addition to Unger, the Seahawks will be without reserve cornerback Marcus Burley and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who injured his shoulder in last week’s loss at Kansas City.

Recently signed defensive end Demarcus Dobbs is doubtful with a knee injury, while left guard James Carpenter is listed as questionable and will be a game-day decision with an ankle injury.

Center spot a mystery

Carroll wouldn’t say who will start at center between Patrick Lewis, Seattle’s third option for much of the season, and Lemuel Jeanpierre, the team’s longtime backup who was re-signed this week after being released with an injury settlement in September.

Regardless of who start in place of Unger, Carroll is confident both players are ready to go.

“He came back really sharp,” Carroll said of Jeanpierre. “Surprising that he would be able to retain so much but he was on it, very confident and demonstrated that so he’s ready to go.”

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