Rashaad Penny was drafted by the Seahawks in the first round in 2018 as a hoped-for antidote to the team’s injury bug at running back.
But a player whose durability was one of his main calling cards entering the NFL has confoundingly found himself dealing with one injury after another since coming to Seattle.
And entering a season that looms critical for his NFL future, Penny is again dealing with an injury.
Penny left the regular-season opener Sunday against the Colts with a calf strain, and coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Penny is likely to miss the game this Sunday against Tennessee and it’s unclear how long he might be out.
If the Seahawks think Penny will miss more than a week or two, he could be placed on injured reserve. Under new IR rules, players can return after missing three games.
“It’ll take us a bit to figure out what the return would be on that,” Carroll said of Penny, who had two carries for 8 yards before he was injured. “He ran really well when he ran (against the Colts), so we’re going to miss him. Looks like this week (he’ll sit out). … We’ll let you know how that goes. Unfortunately, if it takes him a couple weeks, we’ll figure out how to handle that.”
The Seahawks have an obvious replacement in Alex Collins.
Collins, who impressed in the preseason to again make the roster, was inactive Sunday but could easily step into Penny’s role behind Chris Carson. Seattle also had Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas, who each have some key special-teams roles and can serve as the third-down back, active Sunday.
“We had four running backs up this week so we’re in pretty good shape at the position,” Carroll said.
The biggest loss could be to Penny himself. Penny was a surprise pick as the 27th overall selection in the 2018 draft. But the Seahawks said at the time they liked the fact that Penny had never missed a game due to injury at San Diego State, something they needed after a 2017 season in which they dealt with a variety of injuries at running back.
Penny had 289 rushing attempts in 2017, sixth-most in the nation.
But he suffered a finger injury during training camp as a rookie in 2018 that began a series of injuries that limited Penny to just 27 of a possible 48 regular-season games his first three seasons in the NFL.
Most notable was an ACL injury in December 2019 against the Rams. Penny missed the rest of that season and the first 13 games of last year while still recovering.
Penny was listed as limited on the practice report last week with the calf injury, and Carroll said after the game the Seahawks were playing it cautious with him by holding him out in the second half. But the news Monday indicated the injury might be a little more serious and require a week or two for Penny to recover.
“Alex is ready to go, and both Homer and DeeJay are ready to go, too, so we’re in good shape,” Carroll said.
Dee Eskridge, Penny Hart in concussion protocol
Carroll said it was too early to declare if receivers Dee Eskridge and Penny Hart will be able to play Sunday after suffering concussions against the Colts.
Carroll said each player will now go into the concussion protocol and that due to the timeline, “there’s nothing to make a prediction about right now.”
Hart played two offensive snaps and also was on special teams before being injured, Eskridge, Seattle’s first choice in the 2021 draft, was injured on a running play in the fourth quarter.
Seattle has just three other receivers on its active roster so the Seahawks could look to promote a receiver off the practice squad if Hart and/or Eskridge cannot play Sunday. Seattle has three receivers on the practice squad in Aaron Fuller, Cody Thompson and Cade Johnson.
Nickel rotation to continue
The Seahawks had what was pretty much a true rotation at the nickel corner position Sunday with Ugo Amadi playing 34 snaps and Marquise Blair 28.
And Carroll said Monday that for now, that will continue.
“We’re just going to keep going with the rotation at this point,” Carroll said.
Blair won the nickel competition in 2020 but then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game. Amadi then took over, and it was Amadi who got the start Sunday against the Colts.
Carroll noted again Monday that Blair — a 2019 second-round pick out of Utah — began his career as a safety before moving to nickel last year, and didn’t get much experience in 2020 due to the knee injury.
“I felt, and I think Marquise did to, that it was good to get back out there,” Carroll said. “And it was a little bit more new to him than maybe he would have anticipated. … He’s still just getting going. So he’s going to play a lot better and a lot more comfortable. I think he was a little bit on edge trying to do things exactly right and wasn’t quite cutting loose as he will be.”
Pete Carroll happy where he is
Whenever something happens with the USC football program, Carroll’s opinion is inevitably sought out.
So it was Monday when Carroll was asked about the news that Clay Helton had been fired.
Carroll expressed sympathy for Helton and his staff but also brushed off a question wondering if he’d have any interest in returning to the place he coached from 2001-09.
“I don’t want that,” said Carroll, who signed a contract last year with the Seahawks through the 2025 season. “I’m very happy here.”
As for Helton, Carroll noted that he lost a few times to Stanford — it was a 42-28 home defeat against the Cardinal on Saturday that led to USC’s decision to change coaches.
“I got beat by Stanford a couple times, too,” Carroll said. “(Former USC coach) John McKay always said by far the toughest matchup we ever had was Stanford. And so it carries a lot of weight. So, unfortunately, they had to make a change. Clay’s a good man, a good ball coach, and he’ll bounce right back.”