While the Seahawks appear to have yet again dodged a long-term injury to running back Chris Carson — he might miss only a week or two with a sprained mid-foot — Seattle suddenly has other concerns at its running back position.
Coach Pete Carroll not only confirmed that Carson for now is “week-to-week” with his foot injury but that Carlos Hyde, who replaced Carson as the lead back for most of the final three quarters Sunday night, is dealing with a tight hamstring, and that backup and third-down specialist Travis Homer has a bruised knee.
With Carson seeming likely to miss his first game of the season after earlier in the year coming back to play the next week after his knee was twisted against Dallas, and Hyde and Homer somewhat uncertain, Carroll said the team might need to get creative to fill out the running back spot for the NFC West showdown Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Carroll wouldn’t reveal what those creative plans might be, but they might have to be in-house because the league’s six-day COVID-19 testing entry process for free agents makes it tough for a player from outside to be ready in time to play Sunday (a player could potentially do it if he arrived in Seattle on Monday).
“It’s really difficult to do that,” Carroll said of adding someone who could help this week. “So we have some things that we can do if we need to. We’re going to take it one day at a time and see if our guys can get back and who can get back with a couple of creative thoughts going forward.”
Carroll confirmed reports that an MRI on Carson showed he has a mid-foot sprain.
Carroll said Carson is “really determined” to try to make it back this week but “we just have to go week to week to see what happens. We don’t know.”
Carson was injured in the first half of the 37-34 overtime loss Sunday night at Arizona after playing 15 snaps and rushing six times for 34 yards, including a 10-yard run on the first series that helped set up Seattle’s first touchdown.
Hyde took over the bulk of the duties with Carson sidelined and had season-highs of 68 yards on 15 carries, including a 24-yard touchdown.
It was not known Hyde had an injury until Carroll revealed it, saying, “If Carlos is available to us, which we’re hoping he is, then, you know, we feel like we can keep the tempo going if Chris can’t make it.”
Carroll later said Hyde has a tight hamstring the team is watching.
Homer, who has been filling the team’s third-down, two-minute back role, suffered a bruised knee in the fourth quarter. Carroll said, “It’s not a knee injury, so that’s something he has a chance to recover from.”
The only other running back on Seattle’s roster is rookie DeeJay Dallas, who played substantially down the stretch Sunday with a career-high 12 snaps. But Hyde struggled some in pass blocking, with Carroll saying the team missed Homer in that role.
Seattle has no running backs on its practice squad, but could potentially use fullback Nick Bellore in some ball-carrying roles, while receiver Penny Hart was a running back in high school. David Moore also could be used there in an emergency, having been used substantially as a returner.
What the Seahawks also are hoping for is the return of 2018 first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny, who has been out since suffering an ACL injury last Dec. 8 against the Rams in Los Angeles.
Carroll said on his radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday morning that Penny was not yet ready to return to practice.
But he seemed to hedge on that when asked again about Penny on Monday afternoon when he talked to the media via Zoom.
“I saw him working out today and he looked pretty good,” Carroll said. “That’s on the docs (doctors, to clear him), so we’ll wait and see what they say. I don’t have the timeline on that, but he was running hard today, so he’s getting close.”
The situation calls to mind the running back injury issues Seattle dealt with last December when Penny, Carson and C.J. Prosise all suffered season-ending injuries.
Then, Seattle re-signed Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to fill in. But, as noted, the COVID-19 testing protocols make it hard to bring in a player from the outside quickly. Carroll said it’s more realistically a two-to-three-week process now.
But intriguingly, Prosise in particular might be an option as he was released by Houston on Monday (it’s harder to know if Lynch, now 34, would still be a realistic thought). Signing someone familiar with the playbook already, though, would seem to make more sense given the testing protocols.
The hope, though, will be that Hyde can make it back.
Hyde was signed in part to help the team deal with the injuries that decimated the position a year ago, and with the knowledge that Penny wouldn’t be ready for the first six weeks of the season.
Hyde, who rushed for a career-high 1,070 yards last year with Houston, signed a one-year deal with Seattle in the spring worth up to $2.75 million. If he starts Sunday, he will do so against the same 49ers team for which he played for from 2014-17.
Hyde missed Seattle’s past two games with a shoulder injury before returning after the bye to play against Arizona.
Seattle ran for 200 yards on 30 attempts Sunday night, getting 112 on 23 attempts from its running backs.
“We ran for a lot of yards, and Russ (Russell Wilson, who had 84 on six) helped us with the numbers, taking what they gave him,” Carroll said. “But we felt pretty good about it.”
Carson leads the Seahawks with 323 yards on 66 carries with a career-high 4.9-yard per carry average. He also has 22 receptions for 147 yards and three touchdowns.
Carson is in the final year of his initial four-year rookie deal after being taken in the seventh round out of Oklahoma State.