Russell Wilson won’t play Thursday night in Seattle’s preseason opener against Denver with Geno Smith getting the start, instead.
DK Metcalf and a bunch of other rookies, however, will play — and play a lot.
That was the word from coach Pete Carroll Wednesday as he said the team is changing how it approaches the first preseason game of the year to emphasize getting as much work as possible for young players and other backups contending for roster spots while even further minimizing any potential risk for veteran players whose roles on the team are secure, something that has become a growing trend around the league.
Since becoming the starting quarterback in 2012, Wilson has always started the first preseason game to at least get on the field a little bit, usually going a series or two depending on how long the series last.
Last year, Wilson started the preseason opener and led a 12-play touchdown drive against the Colts and then headed to the bench.
But Carroll said Wilson will be held out against Denver in part because he wants to give as many snaps as he can to backups Smith and Paxton Lynch.
“We have a lot of guys that we need to play,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve got a big competition in the quarterback position, in particular.’’
But Carroll also hinted that another reason for holding Wilson out — and maybe the more significant one — is that a number of other starters on the offense, and particularly those on the line protecting Wilson, who in April became the highest-paid player in NFL history at $35 million a year from 2020-23, also won’t play.
“It has to do with other guys playing and not playing as well, too,’’ Carroll said, essentially confirming he’d rather not have Wilson play a lot of snaps behind a backup offensive line.
Carroll also said many of the team’s starters got extended work in Tuesday’s practice to make up for the fact they won’t play against Denver Thursday — snaps in which the team can take as much control as it wants in how much risk of injury it puts veteran players.
“They got twice as much work as they normally would get going into a game to compensate for the plays they don’t get, and I think we might have gained ground by doing it that way,” Carroll said. “More competition with the ones against ones out here that they won’t get if they play a handful of plays in the first game. I think we’ve made an effort to get more out of this process than to get less out of this process by them not playing in the game.”
Wilson has not played in the final preseason game each of the past two years, but otherwise has played in every preseason game of his career (becoming the starter midway through the 2012 preseason).
As for Smith, he will start Thursday as he battles with Lynch for the backup job, and then have a medical procedure that Carroll did not want to detail yet, saying he would after the game (Lynch will play the rest of the way Thursday once Smith departs).
A six-year veteran, Smith did not practice on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, though he had tape on his knee. Smith did take part in Wednesday’s no-pads, no helmets light workout.
“He’s got an issue that we are dealing with that we are going to tend to after the game,’’ Carroll said. “He is going to play in the game. He’s going to start the game and get a chance to play some good football for us. We are going to fix him up after that.’’
Asked if Smith is having surgery, Carroll said he’d wait to say until after the game but he said Smith may be able to return in time for the season preseason game on Aug. 18 at Minnesota and didn’t specify if Smith is having surgery or some other procedure.
“We think he’s going to be OK for the second game, too, is what the plan is,” Carroll said.
With a big group of rookies and other young players who could play key roles this season, Carroll said he instead felt it was more important to give as much playing time as possible to those players in a game atmosphere (the Seahawks do no live tackling during preseason practices).
“It’s really the game to get the season started and get these young guys rolling and give them the opportunity to compete like we want to compete around here,’’ Carroll said. “We want to see the guys hit, see if they can help our football team, and they can’t do it just watching. They need to get out and play.’’
Among those young players is Metcalf, whose spot on the team is secure but who the team wants to get his feet wet in game action after he did not play in Saturday’s mock game at Pop Kenney Stadium due to an oblique issue.
“He’s ready to go,” Carroll said.
Other young players Carroll mentioned as eager to see play Thursday include rookie safety Marquise Blair, defensive back Ugo Amadi and linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, the latter a former University of Washington star who was out early on in camp after having sports hernia surgery in the offseason but who has practiced regularly of late.
Among the vets who will sit out is tight end Will Dissly, who is coming off of a patellar tendon injury. Dissly had an impressive practice earlier this week with several eyebrow-grabbing touchdown grabs and is healthy. But Carroll said the team just wants to give him one more week before throwing him into a game.
“We are going to hold Will in this game,’’ Carroll said. “He’s done beautifully. He had his best day since he’s been back just yesterday. He looks great, ready to go. But we want to wait. Again, we didn’t think Will would be this far along, so he’s way ahead of schedule. So we are just not going to push the issue now.’’
Play of the day
Pick any of Carroll’s throws while he played quarterback during an early scout team session with the defensive backfield. While the QBs handled business elsewhere, Carroll took the signal-calling reins to help during a defensive pass coverage scouting session Wednesday. Carroll had a few of his passes picked off, much to his chagrin. “First time out,” Carroll said. “I was a little rusty. I hate to admit that. But my pick ratio to touchdowns was not where it needed to be. I thought the defense, they were jacked up to play against me. So I will take a little something out of that. A little respect.”
With the team conducting a day-before-game light walkthrough, there were no new injuries.
But Carroll updated a number of injury situations later. Among the highlights:
— Tight end Ed Dickson had knee surgery on Tuesday and Carroll said the hope he is will be out only four to five weeks.
— Tight end Jacob Hollister continues to deal with what Carroll called “a little groin strain” and it sounds as if he will not play against Denver.
— RB C.J. Prosise has a first-degree hip sprain and will not play against Denver after sitting out practice the last two days.
— RB Travis Homer has got “a bit of a quad strain” and also will not play.
— RB J.D. McKissic has a sore foot and Carroll said he will be a gametime decision.
— Safety Lano Hill has returned to practice but will not play against Denver. Carroll said the hope is he will be able to play at Minnesota. Hill had not practiced until this week following hip surgery last January. He has yet to take part in a team session, doing only work to the side, but Carroll said he should be able to practice fully next week.
— DE L.J. Collier, who suffered a sprained ankle in practice last week, is out of a boot and making good progress, Carroll said, with no other damage found. But Carroll said there is no specific timeline for his return. “It would be ridiculous for me to make a guess on that one but it’s real encouraging,” Carroll said. “It’s nothing beyond what we thought and all that kind of stuff so he’s in good shape.”
— Rookie DL Demarcus Christmas and OL Phil Haynes remain on the PUP list. Carroll said Christmas is “making a turn” in his recovery from a back issue but will likely still be out until after the Minnesota game. Haynes, who had a sports hernia surgery, “has made great progress” but there is no clear ETA on his return.
— And because of the lack of healthy depth at running back with Prosise and Homer out and McKissic uncertain, the Seahawks on Wednesday signed free agent running back Xavier Turner while waiving as injured cornerback Davante Davis to make room on the 90-man roster. Turner, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tarleton State, was waived by Arizona on Friday.
“I think more than ever we have a lot of guys that we need to play. We’ve got a big competition in the quarterback position in particular. We want these guys to play as much as they can and play their way into their spots. I don’t want this to be decisions that we have to make without a lot of great information. So that’s what’s most important right now. We have a lot of competition at receiver. We have a lot of competition in the offensive line. We are going to be able to play a lot of guys in this game and see how they can do.” — Carroll on deciding not to play many starters against Denver.
The Seahawks will play Denver Thursday and then take two days off before returning to practice on Sunday. The Seahawks will have three heavy days of practice Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Carroll said, before taking next Wednesday off and then preparing for the second preseason game against Minnesota on Aug. 18.