They were so thin at the position in the first 10 days that they traded for Mohammed Seisay and converted Doug McNeil from wide receiver. And now those guys are hurt — Seisay with a groin and McNeil with an ankle, joining Richard Sherman (hip), Will Blackmon (groin), Jeremy Lane (ACL, arm) and Tharold Simon (shoulder).
With only Cary Williams, Marcus Burley, Tye Smith and Triston Wade healthy, the Hawks needed some bodies at the position, so they added two guys just to get through practice.
“We need legs at corner right now, so we’ll give these guys a chance,” Pete Carroll said of Jeremy Crayton and Keelan Johnson. “We’re a little bit behind with Sherm not being able to make it back and Will not making it back right away and Seisay gone, too, so we just need them for legs right now. But they’ll get a chance. They got tested today pretty good.”
So many injuries mean Burley and Smith have great chances to take the lead for roster spots. Smith, mined from that golden fifth round this year, played well in his first game.
“I thought his first showing was excellent,” Carroll said, adding that he has shown well in practice and understands Seattle’s very specific corner techniques. “That’s a big statement that he made. … He’s going to get a lot of looks this week as well, so it’s a really good opportunity for him to show where he fits in.”
Carroll said he does not know when Sherman and Blackmon will fit back in. “Both of them had slight strains and we just didn’t want to aggravate them. That’ll be day to day to show us how they can progress.” (Update: Sherman returned to practice Tuesday.)
Simon, coming off shoulder surgery, is off PUP and apparently ready to get into the mix. Carroll said he is not likely to play Friday in Kansas City, but the coach expects him to be full go Aug. 29 at San Diego.
Meanwhile, it appears safety Earl Thomas is questionable for the opener Sept. 13.
Thomas, also recovering from shoulder surgery, was pulled off PUP last week but has not practiced with the team beyond walk-throughs. (Update: He practiced wearing a red no-contact jersey Tuesday.)
Carroll said the staff is “trying to gauge how many days it’s going to take to get him back and trying to figure out how to do this with him. That’s very, very much a topical issue for us right now, trying to make sure we can get enough days to get him right and get him the work that he needs so he can play. We’re shooting for the opener.”
That clearly implies that there is at least a 50 percent chance that he will not make it for the first game, which is why it is imperative for the Hawks to figure out who the No. 2 free safety is.
As of Monday, undrafted rookie Ronald Martin had taken that spot from young vet Steven Terrell.
“He’s just looked really comfortable in the position he’s been in,” Carroll said. “He’s very much at ease; he’s a terrific athlete. He’s got really good all-around athleticism, good feel for the ball. He had a pick during practice that was just like the one that got away from him in the game. … He looks the part back there. He had a couple nice plays on the perimeters and tackles. I’ve been real pleased with what he’s shown so far, and we’re going to give him a shot.”
Martin will play alongside Dion Bailey, a 2014 undrafted free agent who seemingly has usurped DeShawn Shead as the No. 1 strong safety while Kam Chancellor is out.
“We’re going to give Dion a shot, see how he looks,” Carroll said of his former USC recruit, who played well in the second half vs. Denver on Friday. “We want Martin to get a chance to show us, too. Both those guys have looked very good. And this week, next week, we need to find out how far (they) can take it. Dion has been really active, and I’m really excited about the playmaking that he’s brought to us. We’ll see how he fits in with these guys.”
As for other injury updates:
QB Tarvaris Jackson is out at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain. The Hawks reportedly will sign Jake Waters, who was Tyler Lockett’s QB at Kansas State. (Update: Waters was signed and practicing Tuesday.) R.J. Archer ascends to No. 2.
Carroll doesn’t want to sabotage B.J. Daniels’ chance of making the team as a receiver/special-teamer, but he said, “We know right now that B.J. will go in the game if we need a third quarterback. With great fortune he is here with us, been in the system and all that, we can pop him right in.”
As for Jackson, Carroll said, “We don’t know how long it’s going to take. Guys respond differently to these. He feels pretty good about it, so hopefully it’s a couple weeks only.”
WR Paul Richardson is “way ahead of schedule” and wants to play in the opener, but it doesn’t seem like the team wants to let him push it that fast.
“Paul’s ripping it. He is running full speed. He’s flying around. He’s well ahead of the schedule, way ahead of schedule,” Carroll said. “Now it’s just a matter of trying to get him enough work and trust that he’s ready to come back. But he’s done a miraculous job of getting back really; (medical staff are) just blown away by how well he’s running.
“He wants to get back by the opener, and I don’t know that he can do that, but he’s making a bid for that. It’s earlier than it should be. You know we shouldn’t do that, but he may be able to blow it out. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
WR Chris Matthews has a sprained shoulder and has “a chance to make it back in about 10 days, and it could be quicker,” Carroll said.
DT Jesse Williams’ knee is bothering him again — a sign that his body just seems unlikely to ever allow him to play in the NFL. “We’re hoping that Jesse will play again this week,” Carroll said.
LB Quayshawn Nealy suffered a sprained ankle.
It’s a long injury list, but Carroll turned Positive Pete along the way, pointing out that linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and defensive linemen Julius Warmsley and Demarcus Dobbs returned to practice after missing the Denver game.
“It was good seeing some of those guys coming back to action,” Carroll said. “So we’ll start to feel that by the end of the week. Those guys should be able to play in the game.”