Offensive lineman Mike Wahle's release puts spotlight on veteran Seahawks trying to come back from injury.
RENTON — Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s comeback regimen included a half-mile swim across the Columbia River and bringing a personal trainer along for his family’s vacation trip.
That was just one part of the Seahawks’ recovery from the injury-induced train wreck of 2008.
Left tackle Walter Jones is back, recovered from knee surgery that knocked him out of the final four games last year, and defensive end Patrick Kerney returned to practice after his second shoulder surgery the past two seasons.
Not all of last season’s injuries have been relegated to the rearview mirror, though. One came back to claim a starter on the offensive line.
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Left guard Mike Wahle was released by Seattle after he failed his physical examination Friday. Wahle told coach Jim Mora he planned to retire after failing to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder in December.
“He worked really hard to get back to the point where he could be an effective player,” Mora said, “and it just didn’t happen.”
Wahle, 32, signed with Seattle last February after being waived by Carolina. He received a signing bonus of more than $3.5 million and started 10 games for Seattle before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. Recovery was estimated at eight to 12 weeks, but he never practiced during the offseason workouts. He was scheduled to make $3.1 million in base salary this season.
Rob Sims slid over to left guard for Friday’s practice, where he ran with the first unit, but Wahle’s departure meant Seattle suffered a setback before it took the field.
“That’s a tough loss,” Hasselbeck said. “We had a ridiculous amount of guys get hurt last year. We need as many guys as possible to come back and have a good year. In my mind, that’s a big loss, a big void.”
Wahle wasn’t the only absence. First-round draft pick Aaron Curry remains unsigned and was missing. Cornerback Marcus Trufant suffered from a sore back and was placed on the physically unable to perform list for players who do not pass the physical. Mora said Trufant’s injury was a recent condition and not too serious. Trufant can be activated at any time before Sept. 5 and begin practicing with the team immediately.
“We want to be cautious with backs given our history,” Mora said.
A back injury is certainly a sensitive subject in these parts after what happened to Hasselbeck last year. He suffered from a sore back in training camp, and was held out of practice and three exhibition games. What was characterized as a precautionary situation quickly became a problem. He was diagnosed with a bulging disk, and the injury worsened to the point he missed nine games in 2008.
This summer, he stepped up his conditioning program. He started earlier and he worked harder. He even traveled to Canada to work with a trainer to improve his core strength and keep the back injury from recurring.
So what kind of shape is he in?
“You can’t tell?” Hasselbeck asked, drawing laughter. “I focused more on my transverse abdominis. You can look that one up.”
That’s the deepest layer of muscle, which wraps around the body and spans from the ribs to the pelvis.
Hasselbeck, 33, wasn’t the only one applying elbow grease to his recovery. Jones, 35, is still coming back in some ways as both he and Kerney, 32, were limited to individual drills in practice, not participating in 11-on-11 or contact drills.
“For the first day, I felt good,” Jones said. “Just to be out there with the guys, moving around just to see how it feels, it felt great.”
The departure of Wahle is a reminder of how fragile recovery can be, though. Seattle begins this season with Hasselbeck, Jones and Kerney as three of its most important players, all in their 30s and each coming back from a season-ending injury.
Is it realistic to think they can all stay healthy?
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Mora said. “[We’re] certainly hopeful that they can, optimistic that they can. I believe all three have worked very hard with our training staff and our doctors to do everything they can to make sure that is the case. They’ve all been very dedicated in their rehabilitation.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org