RENTON — After answering a few questions Thursday about the issue that has been the most perplexing in this young Seahawks season — his own fumbles — Chris Carson was asked if he was tired of talking about it yet.
“It is what it is,’’ he said. “I ain’t tripping about it.’’
To Seahawks fans who are understandably frustrated to see one of the team’s brightest young stars suddenly encounter such a troublesome problem, that comment might appear rather nonchalant when read in print.
But the reality is that the worst thing that could happen is that Carson harp on the problem too much, and that what the team insists has been a few isolated incidents manifest into something far greater.
In other words, Carson has to walk that fine line between doing what he can in practice this week to work on fixing it, but then being able to forget about it enough come Sunday at Arizona that he doesn’t run with any tentativeness.
“What we want Chris to be able to do is be able to go out and play and not worry about the ball or the fumbles,’’ Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Thursday.
Carson had fumbled just three times in 296 carries before this season, when he has fumbled three times in 45 carries in three games.
All came on plays when a defender punched the ball out of his hands. And all also were recovered by the opponent deep in Seattle territory, with one last week against the Saints returned for a back-breaking touchdown in the second quarter.
But, as Schottenheimer and others have pointed out publicly and to Carson, a bounce or two a different direction and maybe the fumbles are more of a footnote than a headline story.
“It’s just part of the game,’’ Carson said. “They made good plays on me. I’ve got to learn from it and move on.’’
Seattle coaches have mentioned two specific teaching points to Carson this week — keeping the ball wrapped up all the way to the ground (he took one hand off right as he began to brace for the fall last week, which made it easier to punch out) and holding it high and tight to his body.
“He’s working his butt off doing the drills,’’ Schottenheimer said. “It’s going to pass. We don’t have any doubt about that.’’
Certainly, the Seahawks need it to.
Seattle’s running game has so far not been what it was a year ago, when the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing at 160 yards a game.
Seattle enters the game Sunday averaging just 110.7 yards, 15th in the NFL.
There are some valid reasons for the drop in yards, of course, such as falling behind last week and basically throwing every down in the second half — Russell Wilson ended up with a career-high 50 pass attempts against the Saints.
But the running game also just hasn’t looked as effective so far, with the Seahawks averaging just 4.0 yards per carry compared to 4.8 last year.
Carson averaged 4.7 yards a carry last season when he rushed for 1,151 yards but is at just 3.5 this season.
If Carson continues to falter, the Seahawks could use Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise more. But neither projects as being the kind of punishing between-the-tackles runner Carson proved to be last season.
“He’s special and we need him,’’ Wilson said Thursday. “We’re better when we have Chris Carson. Our football team is very, very good when he’s on the field.’’
That’s why Wilson has tried to pay some special attention to Carson this week.
He talked to Carson for a while in the locker room after the game Sunday, then texted him later that night.
Monday, when the two were lifting weights, Wilson talked to him again.
“I just kind of went up to him and said, ‘You know, some of the greatest running backs (like) Walter Payton fumbled, too,’’’ Wilson said. “He just kind of laughed and I said ‘It’s going to happen. Just realize you’re a great football player. Go for it.’’’
Wilson knows his football history. Payton actually fumbled 30 times in his first three seasons in the league — nine or more each season — in 846 carries, or once every 28.2 carries. Carson now is averaging one fumble every 56 carries.
Carson said he appreciated the words from Wilson but said he didn’t expect anything different.
“The support has always been there (from teammates and coaches),’’ he said. “So it’s good.’’
Schottenheimer brought up a more recent example of a standout running back who went through a spate of fumbles but came out the other end just fine — former New York Giants star Tiki Barber. Barber fumbled eight or more times in four consecutive seasons from 2000 to 2003, then fumbled only eight more times combined in the final three seasons of his career.
“The biggest thing we can do for Chris is continue to do the drills and stuff that we are doing, getting him to emphasize high and tight,’’ Schottenheimer said. “But then also let him know that ‘Hey, take care of business, we believe in you and we’ll be fine.’’’
The words of encouragement seem to be sinking in, if Carson’s demeanor at his locker Thursday is any indication.
As a wave of reporters approached, Carson answered questions about his fumbles in the same low-key, business-like manner he answered questions a year ago about becoming the first Seahawk since Marshawn Lynch to rush for 1,000 yards.
“Just got to move on from it,’’ he said. “It happens, you know what I’m saying? Move on. Keep going.’’
Ansah sits out practice with back issue
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah sat out practice Thursday with a back injury, and is trending in the wrong direction as Seattle’s game against Arizona nears.
Ansah had been listed as limited with the back injury for practice Wednesday.
Both practices occurred since the last time head coach Pete Carroll spoke to the media, so it’s unclear the nature of the injury and how serious it is. Ansah missed the first two games of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery and also battled a groin injury in training camp.
But a back injury is a new issue for the player who was signed to a one-year deal with a base value of up to $9 million with the hope he will replace the pass rushing of the traded Frank Clark.
Ansah played 19 snaps against the Saints in his first Seattle action, without recording a statistic.
Also sitting out practice Thursday were offensive tackle Duane Brown (biceps), guard Ethan Pocic (mid-back) and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (hip). Carroll said earlier this week that Brown likely would sit out practice this week but the team was optimistic he would play against Arizona.
Listed as limited in practice were Penny (hamstring), cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hamstring), defensive tackle Poona Ford (calf), cornerback Tre Flowers (ankle) and running back Travis Homer (quad).
That’s an upgrade for Penny, who sat out Wednesday, which indicates he is trending toward playing Sunday after sitting out against the Saints.
Thorpe has not played since the season opener.
With the Seahawks waiving defensive tackle Bryan Mone earlier Thursday, Seattle now has eight defensive lineman with three nursing injuries — Ansah, Jefferson and Ford.