RENTON — The Seahawks will need to wait a little while to see their first pick in the 2021 draft — receiver D’Wayne Eskridge — on the field.
A few hours before the team’s first training camp practice Wednesday at the VMAC, the Seahawks announced that Eskridge and running back Travis Homer have been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Seattle also placed free agent rookie offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage on the non-football injury list.
But coach Pete Carroll expressed optimism that the toe injury that has sidelined Eskridge won’t linger too long, saying the team is hoping that he can return in “a week or two.’’
Homer, meanwhile, is out with a calf injury while Lestage is continuing to recover from sports hernia surgery.
Still, the news that Eskridge had been placed on PUP was somewhat ominous given that his injury was portrayed as no big deal in the spring. Eskridge had been limited in the offseason program with what Carroll said at that time was “a big toe issue that’s bothering him.’’
Carroll said Wednesday that Eskridge, who was the 56th overall pick in the draft, first suffered the injury during a workout last spring.
“It popped up in a walk-through in like just an early kind of a trotting pace thing,’’ Carroll said. “So he felt something. And I think it’s something he’s felt before you know in the past but it hadn’t bothered him or hadn’t stopped him from playing. So we’ve got to make sure we take care of him.’’
Carroll said “there is nothing to do surgically at this time’’ with Eskridge, who played at Western Michigan and has been expected to contend for kick returning duties.
Instead, Carroll said the main issue is that the injury prevented Eskridge from doing the work he needed in the offseason to get in the necessary shape for training camp.
Carroll also said the team does not want to rush Eskridge, which is one reason the team put him on PUP. Players can come off the PUP list at any time. But they cannot go on it once training camp begins.
The list also allows for roster flexibility if the injury lingers. Specifically, if Eskridge, 24, remains on the PUP list when the regular season begins he does not count against the 53-man active roster (though at that point, he would have to be out eight weeks before returning).
That is obviously the worst-case scenario for a player the Seahawks have envisioned as being a big part of the offense.
Seattle has no clear No. 3 receiver after the duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Seattle allowed veterans David Moore and Phillip Dorsett to depart in free agency and then drafted Eskridge as the apparent replacement. The only receiver Seattle has used a higher pick on in the Carroll/John Schneider era is Paul Richardson at No. 45 in 2014.
With Eskridge out, 2020 sixth-round pick Freddie Swain was used in three-receiver sets with the starters Wednesday alongside Lockett and Metcalf. Other contenders for the spot include Penny Hart and John Ursua.
But if Eskridge’s injury lingers, then the Seahawks could have to think about going after a veteran.
In fact, Seattle was hoping to get a visit over the weekend from free agent Dede Westbrook, who instead signed with Minnesota. That Seattle was involved with Westbrook makes a bit more sense now knowing that it’s unclear when Eskridge will be available.
As for Homer, the third-year player out of Miami is gunning to be the team’s third-down, two-minute back, a role he has held periodically before.
It’s unclear when he may return.
Homer also sat out minicamp in June with the calf injury and Carroll said he has suffered a re-injury “a couple times during the offseason.’’ Carroll said Homer is running but “he’s not ready to just explode on it yet. So we’ve just got to take our time because it kind of was a little bit unpredictable … we’ll be really patient with that one.’’
Ethan Pocic sits out with hamstring injury
Also sidelined with an injury Wednesday was Ethan Pocic, who is in a battle with Kyle Fuller for the starting center job.
Carroll said Pocic has “a nagging hamstring thing.’’ The good news is that Carroll said the injury is not considered serious enough to put Pocic on the PUP list. And he said Pocic did the walk-through, also indicating the injury isn’t too severe.
But he said the team wants to “be patient and make sure we don’t rush him back.’’
Carroll also noted that Pocic being out gave Kyle Fuller the starter’s reps Wednesday.
“It gives Fuller a fantastic opportunity,’’ Carroll said.
Fuller, a fifth-year vet, battled for the job last camp before he was hit with a two-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. That handed the job to Pocic to start the season. Fuller started a November game against the Rams when Pocic was injured but then suffered a high ankle sprain.
Carroll has said several times that he considered the Pocic/Fuller battle for center wide open and with Pocic out, Carroll said wryly that it could open the door for “that Wally Pipp thing to happen.’’
Brad Lundblade worked primarily as the backup center Wednesday.
Carroll ‘rooting’ for Richard Sherman
Carroll said he has been in contact with former Seahawk Richard Sherman, who is facing five misdemeanor counts relating to an incident earlier this month, including resisting arrest and driving under the influence.
“I have been in communication with Richard throughout the offseason, as I told you before, I think, last time we met, and we’ve had more since then,’’ Carroll said, referring to meetings with the media in the spring. “You know he’s got a lot he’s working on right now and I wish him the best, and the family the best, and that everything works out. I really believe in the guy. He’s a brilliant person and he’ll figure this out and put everything back in order the way it needs to be. That’s the way I believe. So I’m rooting for him.’’