Lots else happened Wednesday other than the return of Earl Thomas. Here are the highlights.
The big news Wednesday at the VMAC was that hold out free safety Earl Thomas returned to practice and could play Sunday at Denver.
But that wasn’t all that happened.
Here are six other things to know from what coach Pete Carroll and others had to say.
SHAQUEM GRIFFIN WILL START AT WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER
This was no surprise as it became apparent a week ago Monday when K.J. Wright had arthroscopic knee surgery and was likely to miss the opener that Griffin would likely get the start in what will be his first NFL game, continuing to add one more amazing chapter onto another of his inspirational tale of perseverance (let alone playing alongside twin brother Shaquill).
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But Carroll ended any suspense when he announced during his weekly press conference that Wright is out for this week and that Griffin will start.
Later, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said “it’s been amazing to watch his development.’’
That doesn’t mean Griffin doesn’t have a lot of room to grow. The Seahawks have talked this week of needing to understand they can’t expect Griffin to be at the same level as Wright — who has been in the league since 2011 — in terms of understanding the defense. In essence, simplifying things a little bit.
But the hope and pan is that with maybe a little less on his plate but getting a little more experience each day he can be where they need him to be Sunday against Denver.
“Just keep working,’’ Norton said of what his message is to Griffin, whose start figures to be one of the top stories of the NFL weekend. “Nothing changes. Football is football no matter what level you play, and the things that made him successful to this point are going to be the things that keep him going. But his strengths are his speed and his mind and his ability to run and hit, so continue to keep him at his strengths.’’
Carroll said Wright could return next week but that they’ll need to wait until Wednesday or Thursday of next week to know. Seattle could get some help there in that its next game after the contest at Denver is on a Monday night at Chicago.
DOUG BALDWIN IS RARING TO GO
The veteran receiver has yet to step foot on the field this season, held out of the preseason to get his knee in regular season shape.
Baldwin playfully waved away questions about his health saying he had gotten some flack for saying last week he was at “80-85 percent.’’ The message is that Baldwin’s 100 percent now may be different than it was in years past but will have to be good enough.
Coach Pete Carroll said he expects Baldwin to be the same as ever when he steps foot on the field Sunday at Denver.
“I think the guys have done a really good job with Doug,’’ Carroll said. “There was a long range plan way-back-when, when we had figured out needed to rest on some to get them back and the idea was to ramp them up so that he would be in great condition last week and he could play and he was. He’s handling it really well. He’s in great shape, he’s an extraordinarily well-conditioned guy. He’s on a little bit different scale in terms of the pitch count because he’s been with us – he’s been working, he’s in marvelous condition – we’ve held him back in essence. We’re anxious to cut him loose. He’s really ready to go, if you can imagine.”
Baldwin said he was ready to play citing a phrase he heard often from former teammate Jermaine Kearse that “if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready.”
CARROLL EXPECTS THE OFFENSIVE LINE TO RISE TO THE CHALLENGE OF DENVER’S PASS RUSHERS
The Broncos have one of the pass rushers in the game in outside linebacker Von Miller, who is flanked by first-round pick Bradley Chubb – the number five overall selection — to form a duo that will challenge the Seahawks right out of the gate.
But Carroll says he thinks Seattle’s tackle duo of Duane Brown on the left and Germain Ifedi on the right is ready (Ifedi was listed as limited in practice Wednesday with an ankle sprain but is expected to play).
“Well, it’s been clear,’’ Carroll said in answer to a question of if he thinks the pass protection is better at this stage than it was a year ago. “I can’t tell you that all the way through the ranks that it’s been consistent (with the backups in the preseason), but it has with the first group. They’ve done a really nice job. Russ (quarterback Russell Wilson) has had a really good feel for our guys, he’s moved in the pocket really well. You’ve seen him so many times in this preseason stepping up in the pocket with space and room. He’s still going to take off and do things because that’s what Russell can do. The guys have been really sharp and it’s a great challenge this week. (Bradley) Chubb’s a really good player too, they got guys all over the board who can bring it, so it’s going to be a real nice challenge for us. All in all we are much further a long than we’ve been. We’re just more experienced, Duane (Brown) has been a big element of that. J. (Justin) Britt being through all of these years now, he’s there. (Germain) Ifedi’s coming back with the most experience he’s ever had. The guys that are playing now with D.J. (Fluker) and Sweez (J.R. Sweezy) and those guys. That leaves (Ethan) Pocic as just the young guy, so there’s one guy in the mix that’s a young guy, and he’s really an astute football player. He knows his stuff, he can hold up his own. It’s been a really good group. (Will) Dissly’s been a part of that too, he’s helped us out as well.”
Carroll later specifically cited Ifedi’s progress in the preseason.
He was benched twice early in the preseason — once in a practice and another in the mock game — for penalties. And later, the Seahawks moved George Fant to the right side to give Ifedi some competition. But a strong performance in the third preseason game against the Vikings allowed Ifedi to hold on to the starting job — and rather emphatically, in Carroll’s view.
“I think he’s responded well,’’ Carroll said. “I think we’ve given him some challenges with guys behind him and he’s held everybody off. He’s improved technically in the way he’s played. He’s cleaned some things up and he’s obviously been able to clean up his game in terms of the penalties and all that. You can’t get a more obvious indicator than that. He’s just cleaned things up and it carries over into everything that he’s doing. He’s had a great camp, he’s done a really good job. I know he’s been watched really carefully by everybody. He’s come through and I think that’s particularly been worthy for him, just a really good job.”
CARROLL CAN’T WAIT TO UNLEASH THE TEAM’S STABLE OF RUNNING BACKS
The game will be the first for first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who was a full participant in practice Wednesday after having missed the last three preseason games with a broken finger suffered in practice.
But for now, Penny remains behind Chris Carson, who believe it or not will be playing just his fifth NFL game on Sunday.
The two will lead a running back corps the Seahawks hope will lead to a revived running game this season.
Said Carroll of the running backs on Wednesday: “We’re going to get better, we will. There hasn’t been enough reps, in particular for Rashaad (Penny). He just hasn’t had enough live turns yet to really get his rhythm going. He has such good experience with stuff that we’ve run, that we’re running, that we know that he’s run plays in the same fashion, so there will be carry over there. He’s had one game to get a shot at it, I think he’s got four carries, so he’ll get a lot better. Chris (Carson) seems like the seasoned veteran around here, but Chris will grow too. Mike Davis gives us the ability. C.J. (Prosise) can bring his stuff. It’s a good position group for us, we’re really excited that we’ve made it all the way to this time. These guys are in tact and they can all compete and battle for us.”
DION JORDAN MAY PLAY BUT QUINTON JEFFERSON IN LINE TO GET THE START AT LEFT DEFENSIVE END
Jordan, who was removed from the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list over the weekend was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and it remains unclear if or how much he will be available against the Broncos. The best bet is that he’ll be active but could be limited.
“He looks good,’’ Carroll said of Jordan. “He’s ready to go. So he’s got a chance to play this week.”
But assuming Jordan is at least limited, the Seahawks could be counting greatly on third-year vet Quinton Jefferson, who is listed as the starter at left defensive end on the depth chart this week.
“Had his best camp ever,’’ Carroll said of Jefferson. “He’s really stepped up his intensity in terms of consistency. He’s always been a good, big athlete, but he’s really understands the scheme really well. (Defensive line coach) Clint (Hurtt) really believes in him and trusts that he’s going to do the right thing and play well and play right. He’s not a young guy anymore, so he’s got some veteran in him now. He’s always been a good mover and a good tough guy and all that. Now, he’s the best he’s been.”
A SMALL INJURY REPORT, THOUGH D.J. FLUKER SAT OUT
The Seahawks didn’t have much of an injury report Wednesday with just two players sitting out — Wright and right guard D.J. Fluker.
As noted above, Wright has already been declared.
The status is less clear for Fluker, who is dealing with a hamstring injury suffered in the third preseason game at Minnesota.
But the fact that Fluker remains out 12 days after that game was played certainly indicates he may not be ready for the Denver game.
The good news for Seattle is that they have a veteran ready to step in there — J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy is ready after not playing in the preseason, listed as a full participant Wednesday.
Asked about Fluker Wednesday, Carroll said only “we’ll see’’ if he can play against Denver.
Ifedi and Jordan — as discussed above – were each listed as limited.
Everybody else was listed as a full participant including Baldwin and safety Tedric Thompson and cornerback Neiko Thorpe.
Thorpe did not play in the preseason with a wrist injury but appears ready to return. Thompson suffered rib injuries and a stinger against the Vikings. He is listed as only dealing with ribs now.