Carson is right in the running for the tailback job despite the drafting of Rashaad Penny in the first round in April.
Since the day he arrived in Seattle last spring, Chris Carson has said being a seventh-round draft pick will stick in his mind for as long as he plays in the NFL.
“I still have the same mindset,’’ Carson said Thursday. “My mindset is steady hustling. I always want to come out and prove somebody wrong, because me being a seventh-round pick a lot of people passed up, it’s like you want to come out and prove a lot of people wrong. So my mindset is still the same — try to prove myself each and every day. You never want to be comfortable. They are always trying to find someone to replace you, each and every year.’’
Carson got as vivid of an illustration of that eternal NFL reality as there could be when the Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round in April. It was only the third time in Seahawks’ history the team has taken a tailback in the first round, the others being Curt Warner in 1983 and Shaun Alexander in 2000.
The pick of Penny wasn’t so much a comment on Carson as on the tailback position as a whole after a season in which Seattle somehow managed just one rushing touchdown from someone other than quarterback Russell Wilson. Carson was about the only bright spot in the running attack with 208 yards rushing in the first four games of the season.
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But he suffered an ankle injury late in the fourth game against the Colts that cost him the rest of the season, typifying the kind of year it was for the Seahawks’ backfield.
While the way he played before he got hurt only further justified the team’s excitement about his potential, his injury — one of many the team has suffered at tailback since 2015 — further reinforced that the team can never have too much depth at the position.
The drafting of Penny caught Carson’s attention, but he also said he understood it completely.
“I was happy, but at the same time it was like, ‘OK there is another guy coming in to compete,’ ’’ he said. “When I got drafted here, it was T (Thomas) Rawls, Alex Collins, everybody. So it’s another guy, another guy to the brotherhood. We show love to anybody that comes in that wants to compete with anybody.”
Carson has taken the offseason to show that he is willing to compete with anybody, as well.
He spent the winter months in Bellevue and Dallas working out with personal trainers and also altered his diet — giving up chicken wings, among other things — to not only gain 10 pounds but also report to the team in April looking, as coach Pete Carroll put it, “incredible. … he just looks so fit, he’s just so cut and quick and explosive and all that.’’
Being in shape has never been Carson’s issue. But given the injury of last season, this year’s offseason had a little different focus.
“My offseason program I was doing a lot of stuff towards my lower body to make sure my ligaments were good,’’ he said. “My strength coach in Dallas and up here, they try to help me out when it comes to my balance. I ended up putting on 10 pounds of muscle so I feel a lot more solid.”
The 10 pounds, he said, has him up to 226-227 (he was listed last year at 218), but more importantly might have him better equipped to handle the punishment of an NFL season.
Carson has dealt with injuries throughout his college and NFL career and said getting a taste of professional success and seeing his season end in the flash of an eye taught him again how fleeting it can all be.
“It makes you appreciate everything,’’ he said. “Just being out on the sideline for how long I was makes you appreciate everything. Makes you realize this game can be taken away at any moment, so you enjoy it while the time you’re out there.”
While the ankle injury Carson suffered required surgery, he recovered well enough that the team held out hope he could return late in the season. Carson had set a target date of returning for the game on Christmas Eve at Dallas.
But those plans were dashed when Carson suffered a setback while working out in early December. It wasn’t a big deal — just a couple of weeks — and had Seattle made the playoffs he might have been able to play. But when the season instead ended with the regular-season finale against Arizona, Carson’s rookie year also was done.
“I was pretty close,’’ Carson said. “I felt like if we had made the playoffs I probably would have tried to make a push, but I didn’t want to rush it. A lot of people on the team were telling me a lot of advice saying don’t push it. If you’re not 100 percent there’s no point in trying to rush back out there.’’
That’s not an issue now.
Carroll said that while the Seahawks are excited about Penny, they also like what they are seeing from Carson. One of the two is likely to be the opening-day starter at tailback. And the way Carroll sounded, the man getting the first carry of 2018 could well be Carson.
“He’s absolutely full steam,’’ Carroll said “He has just had a great offseason. He was really frustrated about not being able to finish us last year, and he put it to work. He did it. I’m excited to see how he goes. He’s going to play really good for us when we get back.”