Coach Pete Carroll said Simon is physically the best he’s been, and Simon had a standout day on Monday. He chased receiver Douglas McNeil III and forced a fumble on one play. The very next play, he picked off a pass along the sideline when the receiver slipped.
RENTON — Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon knows the perception of him heading into his fourth season.
“Four years in the league and I really haven’t showed anything yet,” Simon said. “It’s definitely a make or break year for me, a major big year, and I’m taking it on like that.”
He’s right, and he’s off to a good start at training camp. Coach Pete Carroll said Simon is physically the best he’s been, and Simon had a standout day on Monday.
He chased receiver Douglas McNeil III and forced a fumble on one play. The very next play, he picked off a pass along the sideline when the receiver slipped.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Could Russell Wilson and the Seahawks consider the uncommon contract path of Tom Brady? | Matt Calkins
- Edgar Martinez, legendary Mariners DH, overcomes odds to make Baseball Hall of Fame in final attempt WATCH
- UW Huskies 2019 outlook: What will offense look like with Jacob Eason, Salvon Ahmed in backfield?
- Seahawks Mailbag: Free agent rumors and rumblings -- Could a few former Seahawks find their way back?
- Watch: Mariners great Edgar Martinez gets the call from the Baseball Hall of Fame WATCH
But talent has never been the issue. Cornerback Richard Sherman once told Simon he could one day be better than Sherman. Safety Earl Thomas once said Simon could be the team’s “best corner as far as God-given ability.”
Yet Simon is competing for a roster spot among a crowded and talented defensive backfield mostly because he hasn’t stayed healthy. He missed his entire rookie season with an injury and played in just one game last season. In his three seasons, he has played in only 11 games.
“I’ve been injured since I got here,” Simon said.
The left cornerback spot is etched with Sherman’s name. The right corner spot is a bit more open, although the Seahawks signed Jeremy Lane to a new contract this offseason. DeShawn Shead is also in the mix.
“I think I’m one of the best corners out there,” Simon said.
“We have a lot of good guys out there, but I think I’m one of the top guys out there. I just want to go and see what I can do and help the team win.”
Simon said he feels 100 percent after a toe injury ended his 2015 season. He has the size (6-3, 202) the Seahawks like, and although he struggled in the Super Bowl against the Patriots two years ago, he has played well in his limited time.
That’s the intriguing part. Now he has to turn that potential into production.
“He’s a guy that we’re always counting on because we know what he’s capable of,” defensive coordinator Kris Richard said.
Ifedi stands up to Bennett
Monday was as close to football as the Seahawks have gotten since they walked off the field last January in Carolina.
It wasn’t quite real football — the Seahawks were in shoulder pads and helmets only. But being in any kind of padding meant some real hitting for the first time.
“It stepped up the way we hoped,’’ Carroll said.
“You wait all this time, months and months and months, and it’s not real football. This is closer to it.’’
That intensity was most evident during pass rush drills, when offensive linemen go against defensive linemen one-on-one.
About three snaps in, Michael Bennett went up against rookie Germain Ifedi, who put up a strong fight, which then led to some pushing and shoving and words and pointing of fingers afterward, with Bennett attempting to circle away from some teammates holding him back to get back to Ifedi. By usual NFL standards, it was nothing much.
But given the gym-class nature of the first couple days, it definitely spoke to the difference now that pads are on.
Carroll, noting that Bennett and Ifedi went to the same college, smiled and said, “I know there was a little (Texas) A&M issue going on down there.’’
A few minutes later, the two were matched up again, and again Ifedi held pretty firm. This time there was no real jawing and the rest of practice went peacefully enough.
Carroll said such moments can help young players prove their worth in the NFL.
“That’s who he is,’’ Carroll said of Ifedi.
“And he has shown that throughout. There s nothing wrong with that. Very aggressive. Very tough. Willing to stand up for himself on the first day — pretty good.’’