The Seahawks have a few more days until their next practice Tuesday that is open to the media.
So in the meantime, let’s get to a few more mailbag questions, asked both via Twitter as well as email.
Q: How does Ziggy Ansah keep his body ready for the season post labrum surgery? He can’t do bench presses etc. so what does he do to keep a good weight and strength overall?
A: As the questioner notes, Ansah had surgery to fix the labrum in his shoulder last year. He went on injured reserve Dec. 11 after dealing with a shoulder injury all season, playing in just seven games in his final year with Detroit.
The Seahawks hope he is ready for the start of the 2019 season, but the challenges in rehabbing from such a surgery are why there remain some doubts about exactly when he will be 100 percent.
At the moment, it’s too early for anyone to really say for sure.
During the OTAs open to the media Ansah has been seen doing conditioning work off to the side to keep his legs and cardio and other areas that were not impacted by the surgery in the best shape possible (and what we see is undoubtedly far from all he is doing).
Obviously, the plan will be to begin working on his upper body as he recovers, ramping that up as he continues to improve.
While I can’t speak to the specifics of exactly how Seattle will do that with Ansah, labrum surgery is fairly common and NFL teams have general plans on how to deal with the recovery.
But it can be a challenge to get back to top form quickly, and that’s one reason why Ansah was still available to be signed in May after being on the free-agent market for two months, and also why he signed a contract that includes guarantees at signing of roughly $11 million less than he made in 2018 with the Lions (his Seattle contract includes $6 million guaranteed at signing while he made $17.1 million in 2018 in Detroit after the Lions placed a fully guaranteed franchise tag on him).
And it will be especially critical for a player who will have to use his shoulders and depend on upper-body strength as much as defensive ends such as Ansah must do.
One notable Seattle player who had a similar surgery whose path shows that there can be some bumps in the road to full recovery is Earl Thomas.
Thomas also had labrum surgery in February 2015 to fix an injury that occurred in the NFC title game win over Green Bay and that he then played with in the Super Bowl loss to New England.
Thomas began training camp in 2015 on the PUP list (physically unable to perform), which is also likely to be the case with Ansah, before being taken off it in August.
Thomas did not play in any exhibition games in 2015 as he continued to recover but then returned to play in all 16 regular-season games (as well as the playoffs), and in fact played the most snaps of any Seahawk defensive player that season, 979.
But Thomas said later he never felt fully healthy in 2015, skipping the Pro Bowl that year to let his body heal. He had a career-low tackles that season for any year in which he played all 16 games and was not named to the All-Pro team for the first season since his rookie year (and the only year of his Seattle career other than his rookie season when he played a full season).
Thomas said in the spring of 2016 that “there were a lot of mental battles with my shoulder’’ in 2015 and that he didn’t feel he had the same level of conditioning entering the season as usual.
So there are no guarantees here.
But the Seahawks are optimistic that the plan they have for Ansah will work while also having taken some precautions financially by including $3 million in roster bonuses in his contract — $1.5 million if he is on the 53-man roster for every game, and another $1.5 million if he is on the 46-man roster for every game (meaning, on the active game-day roster and available to play).
Coach Pete Carroll last week gave a vague timeline as for when Ansah will be back, saying for now he just has to continue to work to recover and the team will know more when training camp starts in late July.
“Where he is, he’s in the process,’’ Carroll said. “He’s got a long process to get back. His attitude is great. He’s working every day, involved in all phases of everything that’s going on in the training room and with strength and conditioning. It’s just going to take a while and we’ll see. We won’t know until we get back after the break, until we get to camp really to see how far along we are able to get him. And then we’ll see what camp tells us. I can’t tell you anything more other than we’ve just got to wait and see. But he’s doing everything he can and we’re all on it and really fired up about him being here.’’
Q: Did the Seahawks blow it letting Alex McGough get away?
A: That’s a question a few people were asking on Twitter this week in the wake of reports that McGough has had a few good days in OTAs with the Jacksonville Jaguars, particularly on Tuesday when starter Nick Foles was absent.
Jaguars beat reporter Daniel Popper of The Athletic wrote that McGough has been “better than expected’’ so far as he competes for the backup job behind Foles with former WSU star Gardner Minshew and Tanner Lee.
McGough, recall, was Seattle’s seventh-round pick in 2018 out of Florida International.
He then battled with veteran Austin Davis throughout training camp for the backup job behind Russell Wilson before the Seahawks then traded for Brett Hundley after the third exhibition game, eventually waiving Davis (who is now back with the team in a coaching role on offense) and McGough.
McGough then re-signed to the practice squad, basically serving as the third quarterback throughout the season, though never being needed and remaining on the practice squad all year.
Seattle planned and hoped to then sign McGough to a futures contract in January, as they did with the nine other players who were on its practice squad at the end of the 2018 season.
McGough, though, didn’t sign with Seattle and when he became a free agent, instead signed with Jacksonville.
That sequence of events can lead to the idea that Seattle simply let McGough get away.
But it’s a little more nuanced than that.
The Seahawks had shown McGough that they wanted to keep him around by having paid him a practice-squad salary in 2018 that was among the highest in the NFL (there is a minimum teams have to pay practice-squad players but no maximum).
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that Seattle paid McGough $28,235 per week, which is almost four times last year’s minimum of $7,600, which he further reported was the third-highest salary any team was paying any practice-squad player (that was as of last September).
That contract was in part designed to compel McGough to turn down any other offers McGough might get — other teams can offer practice-squad players a spot on their 53-man roster at any time — which Seattle would not have done had it not considered McGough to be a part of its future (Seattle has paid handsome practice-squad salaries to players it has wanted to keep around in the past, such as defensive back DeShawn Shead in 2012 and 2013).
So Seattle had made it clear to McGough that he was wanted.
Jacksonville, though, then offered McGough not only guaranteed money, something Seattle didn’t do with any of the other nine players from last year’s practice squad, but also a two-year contract, also something Seattle did not do with any of its other nine practice-squad players from a year ago.
McGough’s Jacksonville deal included a $75,000 bonus, which means he will have a salary-cap hit this year of $607,000 (Seattle’s other practice-squad players all signed one-year deals with no bonuses and cap hits of $570,000).
The Jaguars could also offer McGough what he thought at the time was a better chance of playing — he signed before Jacksonville signed Foles.
Also worth remembering is how things unfolded last preseason.
McGough’s overall preseason numbers in 2018 were fine enough — 36 of 62 for 416 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 87.8, as well as 59 yards rushing on nine attempts, though, as always, it’s worth remembering he was playing against defenses also filled with nonstarting players and deep reserves.
But his third game against the Vikings — the game that most resembles the real thing of any game in the NFL preseason — was a rough one, and appeared to make the Seahawks decide they needed a more proven player to be the backup.
McGough was 5 of 14 against Minnesota for 140 yards and a touchdown, but 55 of those yards came on a last play Hail Mary that came up a few yards short — a nice play, to be sure, but hardly one that was really indicative of anything. The TD was also mostly a great individual effort by David Moore on a 36-yard catch and run. McGough also threw an interception in what was a fairly erratic showing.
Certainly, nothing at all that was too alarming in the long run — and as noted, the Seahawks wanted to keep McGough around for the long haul. But it showed Seattle that maybe McGough needed a bit more seasoning, hence the trade for Hundley a few days later with Green Bay for a sixth-round pick in 2019, and the decision to waive McGough a week later and then re-sign him to the practice squad.
Like McGough, Hundley later signed with a team in his home state (Arizona) and where he felt he’d have a better chance to play (he signed before the drafting of Kyler Murray).
The Seahawks responded by first signing Paxton Lynch and then earlier this month Geno Smith, each former first- or second-round picks who are still young enough (Lynch is 25 and Smith 28) to hang around for a while if the team decides they are a good fit for the backup role this year.
Each also isn’t costing much more than McGough — Smith has a cap hit of $735,000 on a one-year deal that included $25,000 guaranteed and Lynch has a cap hit of $645,000 on a one-year deal that included no guaranteed money.
As for whether Seattle really blew it with McGough or any other of its backup QB decisions of late, those are questions that would only really be determined if the worst-case scenario of an injury to Wilson unfolded and suddenly a backup had to play significantly.
If the Seahawks never really get an answer to that they’ll be just fine.