RENTON – Byron Maxwell walked to a podium Wednesday at the Virginia Mason Center and stared into the lights of a dozen or so cameras.
“That’s a lot of microphones,” he said with a little smile.
Maxwell, though, will have to get used to the spotlight as he moves into a starting role on the defense of the team with the best record in the NFL as the Seahawks prepare to take on the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.
Maxwell will step in for suspended Walter Thurmond at cornerback, working opposite Richard Sherman. Thurmond had taken over for Brandon Browner, who is out with a groin injury and also on the verge of being suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
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Maxwell, though, indicated that speaking to the media would be more of a challenge than making his first career start.
“It’s a little bit bigger deal to everybody else than it is to me,” said Maxwell, who was taken in the sixth round of the NFL draft in 2011 and has played 29 games since in a reserve role, including all 11 this season. “I’ve always prepared like a starter, even when I wasn’t. So it’s cool.”
That was the general tone throughout the Seattle locker room Wednesday as players met the media for the first time since news of Thurmond’s and Browner’s suspensions. The season they expect to end in a Super Bowl trip will go on as planned.
“They understand what they did and the mistakes that they made,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “And nobody feels worse than they do. So we are not even addressing it. Let it be. It is what it is. We’ve got to move on.”
Exactly who will be moving on, though, remained unclear.
In a surprise move, the Seahawks cut cornerback Perrish Cox — whom they had signed the day before — shortly before practice and after coach Pete Carroll met the media.
Cox spent the past two years with the 49ers before being released earlier this month. After cutting Cox, the team promoted DeShawn Shead from the practice squad to the active roster.
Still, that left Seattle with just four healthy cornerbacks — Jeremy Lane, Sherman, Maxwell and Shead. That led to speculation the team might still be considering signing Antoine Winfield, who was with Seattle from April until being released in late August, or that there might still be hope of getting back Browner at some point this season.
Browner is reportedly in danger of being suspended for a year as a stage-three offender of the NFL’s drug program. Nothing is official, though, as Browner’s appeal was heard on Wednesday, with Browner’s side reportedly claiming he fell into stage three due to missing mandatory drug tests while he was playing in the Canadian Football League from 2007-10.
If he wins the appeal, Browner could have his penalty lessened to four games and play for the Seahawks later in the year. Browner was going to miss the next few weeks with a groin injury, regardless.
Regardless of who lines up Monday, safety Earl Thomas said he expects the Seahawks to play like the No. 2-ranked NFL defense they are. He also noted that the Seahawks have thrived in similar situations, including last year when Lane and Maxwell saw their roles increase when Browner was suspended and Thurmond hurt.
“I take the same chip on my shoulder whether we have the guys that we started the season with or the second string, because they are just as good,” Thomas said. “Nobody knew about Richard Sherman until he got his opportunity (when Marcus Trufant was hurt in 2011).”
Receiver Doug Baldwin said none of it would change the tenor in the locker room as the team looks to all but clinch homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs by beating the Saints.
“Nothing negative comes out of the locker room,” Baldwin said. “The atmosphere, the culture we have in the locker room is all positive. We can talk about the instances that happened, and we talked to those guys and said, ‘Hey, we’re disappointed in your actions. Your actions were selfish.’ And they know that. And they would tell you the same thing. But at the same time, they’re not bad people.
“They’re disappointed in their own actions. There’s not much else that needs to be said. They know that they made a mistake. They’re handling the consequences the best way they can. I had a long talk with Walter about it, and you could tell he was upset that he had to come and tell me. He didn’t want to tell me because he didn’t want to be in that situation. That’s the type of relationship guys have in this locker room.”
Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin was scheduled to be limited in practice. But Carroll said there was no reason to think Harvin won’t play Monday against the Saints. Carroll portrayed his limited availability in practice as what will become the norm as they try to manage his recovery from hip surgery Aug. 1. Harvin played for the first time on Nov. 17 against the Vikings.
“I think we are in a mode here where we’ve got to really manage him and take care of him as much as possible,” Carroll said. “So we are going to keep looking for those opportunities until he really is fully strong. … so we’ll go day-to-day with how we take care of him.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.