RENTON — After an unprecedented offseason and training camp, things are getting back to normal for the Seahawks as they are in full game-week mode preparing for Sunday’s season opener at Atlanta.
That means coach Pete Carroll held his usual Wednesday news conference — though via Zoom — to talk about the game and other matters.
Here are five things we learned:
Quinton Dunbar is back, but it’s unclear if he’ll start Sunday
Dunbar didn’t practice Monday as he had to re-enter the league’s COVID-19 testing protocol after leaving the team for a few days to attend a funeral in Florida last week.
He was back on the field Wednesday, and Carroll said he would be taking part fully in practice (he was considered a full participant on the practice report).
A good week of practice might mean Dunbar will start Sunday at right cornerback against the Falcons. The team is listing that as an either/or right now with Tre Flowers — the only officially unsettled starting position on the roster.
That might surprise some given that Dunbar was one of the team’s high-profile offseason acquisitions coming over in a trade with Washington for a fifth-round pick.
But Dunbar had a late arrival to training camp, beginning the year on the commissioner’s exempt list (he didn’t take the field until Aug. 16) due to legal issues, and then has been away from the team two separate times to attend to personal issues.
“He’s missed enough days that he hasn’t got them all, and you can tell a little bit,” Carroll said.
But Carroll said when Dunbar has practiced he’s shown a quick mastery of the defense.
“He’s a really bright kid and picking up the system has been nothing for him,” Carroll said. “It’s been really easy. … We would be comfortable if he’s on the field playing for us.”
Carroll said earlier in the week the team might be more inclined this year than in some seasons to rotate more liberally at certain positions since there were no preseason games, both to gauge where certain players are and also to make sure to not overwork anyone. That could open the door to getting Dunbar and Flowers some work against the Falcons.
The Seahawks are ready for live football
The lack of preseason games also means Sunday marks the first time the Seahawks will do live tackling, other than in one of their two mock games held at CenturyLink Field.
That has Carroll somewhat curious how the team will respond.
“I don’t know what coach at what level isn’t concerned about tackling on the first game, wherever you’re playing,” he said.
Carroll said he pulled out the tape of the mock game Tuesday to get a sense of reassurance for how the team tackled and said he “felt good about it.”
He said it brought back memories of his years as a coach at USC as college teams obviously prepare for seasons with no games against other opponents.
“It really did prepare us for this,” Carroll said. “So I’m glad I have that experience.”
Seahawks get John Ursua back on practice squad
The Seahawks learned Wednesday that Ursua had cleared waivers and re-signed him to the practice squad. He took part in Wednesday’s practice.
Carroll gave a vague answer about Tuesday’s move to waive Ursua and promote Penny Hart off the practice squad to the 53-player roster in a swap of receivers.
“We’re really excited about Penny getting a chance to be on the roster,” Carroll said. “We love Johnny, too, and it’s just concerns going through the final releases and stuff like that. There’s concerns, you know, going through the final releases and stuff like that that we went through, and it just turned out this way.”
That seemed to imply it was a move they might have wanted to make at the cut down to 53 but figured there might be a better chance Ursua would get claimed then rather than at midweek, with teams already well into their game week preparations and any players who change teams having to go through a three-day COVID-19 testing protocol.
Carroll didn’t elaborate on how Hart might be used. He can help in returns if needed and has played slot and outside receiver in his career.
Seahawks mum on potential pregame protest
One big storyline of the NFL weekend is how teams may protest social injustice, racism and police brutality before games.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner spoke to the media via Zoom before practice and hinted that the team will do something but said for now that will be “kept in-house.”
Carroll said he has encouraged players to continue to feel free to speak out and act as they feel is necessary.
“I feel there’s a responsibility on my end of it to keep doing that, and in that, let’s stay with it,” Carroll said. “This isn’t something we just want to put in our back pocket and forget about it. It’s too important. The whole thing we’re talking about — voting and all that — is a huge issue that we want to be part of and we’d like to encourage and help it if there’s some way that we can. That’s coming from the players.”
The Seahawks earlier announced that players will wear decals on helmets this year during games bearing names of victims of police brutality.
Carroll not worried about piped-in noise
Like most NFL teams, the Falcons will not have fans in the stands for Sunday’s game.
That means the Falcons will pipe in some crowd noise to try to replicate a usual gameday environment. The NFL has been informing teams this week of standards to assure it is uniform throughout the league. In a conference call with Seattle media Wednesday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn compared what to expect Sunday to “ambient noise.”
The Seahawks had crowd noise piped in to CenturyLink for its first two mock games, and Carroll said he thinks his team is prepared for what awaits.
“We’re playing in whatever sound they put out there,” he said.