RENTON – Seattle’s linebacking corps took another step toward getting healthy Monday as Malcolm Smith and Korey Toomer each returned to practice.
Each remains limited, and it remains unclear when either will play. But putting on the pads and getting back on the field was a sign that each is getting close.
Smith, the Super Bowl MVP, has not practiced since having surgery in the spring to clear up old issues with an ankle. Toomer, one of the standouts of spring drills, began the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a hip injury.
Soon, they will be joined at practice by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strongside linebacker Bruce Irvin.
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Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Wagner, who is nursing a hamstring injury, could be back next week. Irvin, out since having hip surgery in the spring, is also progressing, Carroll said, and could be back next week. Carroll said Irvin did running that included changing direction Monday for the first time since surgery.
When all four return, the Seahawks will not only have what Carroll called “a really good group’’ but also some really tough decisions.
This could be an especially critical time for Toomer, a fifth-round pick out of Idaho in 2012 who has missed the past two seasons with injuries. He was called by Carroll this spring “the hottest guy in camp.’’ But the absences of others have let players such as four-year veteran Mike Morgan and undrafted rookie free agent Brock Coyle work consistently with the first team, with the defense appearing to hardly miss a beat.
“We will get faster and more experienced real quick,’’ Carroll said.
Carroll says longer PAT would ‘change the game’
The NFL’s experiment with longer kicks for PATs — snapping the ball from the 15, creating essentially a 33-yard attempt, instead of from the 2, for a 20-yard try — ends after the games of this weekend. The experiment was done to see if moving the kick back would create more suspense in a play that has become routine.
Through games of Sunday, kickers were 128 of 136, which was more misses than all of last season in the NFL, when kickers hit on 1,262 of 1,267. Some of the misses were by kickers not assured of roster spots.
Still, Carroll said the raw numbers show that “it’s obviously a factor, if that’s where it goes, that will change the game. I can’t even gauge how many misses that would amount to over the course of a season, or if somebody lost a game or had a chance to tie a game up and they missed it.’’
Seattle’s Steven Hauschka had no problems, hitting all six of his attempts.
The NFL will consider the evidence and decide after this year if the longer PAT is worth doing. Carroll says whatever is decided is fine with him.
“I don’t care,’’ he said. “What it is, doesn’t matter.’’