Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the neck surgery running back Chris Carson will soon have should allow him to return at some point in spring 2022.
The team Friday declared Carson out for the year after it was decided he will need surgery to fix a nagging neck issue that prevented him from playing after Week Four of this season.
On Monday, Carroll clarified that Carson has “a disc issue that needs to be fused” adding “that’s a surgery that can get him back somewhere late in spring.”
Pressed on whether such a surgery could mean the end of his career, Carroll said: “It’s going to be something that’s very doable, and he will be able to return. That’s what we’ve heard.”
Carroll didn’t give a date for the surgery but said, “It’s gonna be a little bit before he does it.”
How well the surgery goes, though, figures to determine how the Seahawks handle their running back position going forward.
With Carson done for the year, the Seahawks were planning on Rashaad Penny taking on a significant role in the offense the rest of the way, sharing time with Alex Collins.
In fact, Penny got his first career start in Sunday’s 23-13 loss to Arizona, gaining 18 yards on the first play of the game.
But typifying the way Penny’s career has gone since Seattle drafted him 27th overall in 2018, Penny suffered a hamstring injury on the play and sat out the rest of the first half.
Penny returned in the second half to play seven more snaps, getting one more carry for 1 yard.
Carroll said Monday that it’s unclear if the injury will cause Penny to miss more time.
“He’s got a slight hamstring that we’ve got to deal with,” Carroll said. “We don’t know how extensive it’ll be, but it’s not a bad injury. But there’s something there, so we’ve just got to make sure and take care of him. See what happens.”
The game was just Penny’s fourth of the season as he battled a calf injury that held him out for five games and then, after returning for two games, did not see action last week against the Packers despite being healthy.
Penny can be a free agent at the end of the season, and his continued health issues might mean the team will look to move on.
Collins, who has started five games this year, can also be a free agent at the end of year.
Carson is under contract in 2022 but has a nonguaranteed salary of $4.5 million with potential cap savings of $3.4 million. He’s also carrying a $3 million dead cap hit on a two-year deal he signed in March.
Both Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas are under contract in 2022 on their rookie deals, and the Seahawks also are high on undrafted rookie free agent Josh Johnson, the leading rusher in the preseason who has been on the practice squad all year.
The Seahawks will likely have better feel by the time the free agent period begins in March where Carson is in his recovery and if Seattle can expect him to return to the level he played before his injury — Carson rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons and had 232 yards on 54 carries this year.
But even if the Seahawks feel confident in the spring that Carson can return, they are likely to look to beef up the depth at running back as insurance, either through the draft or free agency.