RENTON — This hasn’t exactly been the path the Seahawks laid out for Ziggy Ansah’s return to the field, a pesky groin injury having gotten in the way.
But with 12 days to go to the regular season, Ansah was back on the practice field Tuesday, and coach Pete Carroll said he thinks that puts Ansah on track to play against the Bengals in the opener Sept. 8.
Ansah was the team’s marquee free-agent signing this offseason, inking a one-year deal worth up to $9 million, though with $3 million in incentives tied to playing time after he had shoulder surgery last year to repair a torn labrum. Specifically, Ansah gets $93,750 for every game he is on the 53-man roster, and $93,750 more for every game he is on the 46-man roster.
The shoulder was good enough to allow him to return to practice a few weeks ago before a groin injury then set him back.
But Tuesday, he went through individual drills, his most significant on-field work yet, and appeared to make it through no worse for the wear.
“He moved around fine,’’ Carroll said. “He was going through the individual drills. He will do more (Wednesday). “He is on his way back. The shoulder is healed and his groin is healed and he is ready to battle. … We will wait until next week (for him to play). But really happy to get him out, finally. It’s been a long, rigorous return and he has busted his tail and he’s made it. We were hoping he would make it before the final week, which he did. And we will take it and see how far we can go.’’
Actually, Carroll said the team hoped Ansah would return a few weeks into the preseason, possibly early enough to have even played in a preseason game. But Carroll noted that Ansah has gotten substantial work in the team’s walk-throughs and he doesn’t think there will be much of an issue integrating him into the team’s defense.
Ansah will play the team’s LEO, or rush end, spot, with the Seahawks hoping he can replace much of the pass-rush production lost by trading Frank Clark.
Ansah figures to split time early with others at that spot, specifically Cassius Marsh and Jacob Martin, who appear certain to be on the 53-man roster, with the team maybe still debating if Barkevious Mingo will make it. Ansah’s return could make it less likely that Mingo — who carries a $4.1 million cap hit — will be on the initial 53-man roster (as a vested vet, all of his salary for 2019 would be guaranteed if he is).
Here’s more of what we learned from Carroll’s meeting with the media Tuesday:
Carroll confirms Moore won’t be out long
Carroll confirmed an NFL Network report that receiver David Moore has a broken humerus bone but that he should not be out long. Carroll called it specifically a “non-displaced fracture.’’
“It’s sore but he’s not too uncomfortable so he’s going to be able to make a really quick recovery,” Carroll said. “What that is we don’t know. We will just wait and see. But I would bet in another week or so David is going to be chomping at the bit to come back.’’
Carroll said the team is “going to work with him through the 53 and count on him to be back soon,” meaning he will be on the initial 53-man roster so he can play this season. Had he gone on injured reserve now, he would not be able to return. If he is on the initial 53-man roster then he could go on IR and return in eight weeks, if needed.
Moore projects as one of the starters in the team’s three-receiver sets along with Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown.
Iupati may not be back Week 1, so Pocic likely starter
Veteran free-agent signee Mike Iupati remains sidelined with a calf injury — he has not played in any of the preseason games — and it remains unclear when he will return.
“He’s doing well, making progress,’’ Carroll said. “It’s going to be a race to the finish for the first game. I don’t know. He’ll be close.’’
That makes it sound that Iupati will most likely not be available for the opener against the Bengals.
But the good news there is Ethan Pocic has filled in throughout at left guard and Carroll says the 2017 second-round pick out of LSU has responded well.
“It’s the best he’s been,’’ Carroll said. “It’s the strongest he’s been. It’s the most fit. His attitude is really strong. He has really worked hard to get his mind right and mentality right and tough. … I really like that he had this opportunity because he took the challenge and he’s mixed in with the first group and done an admirable job. Ethan will play for us in the opener if Mike can’t go.’’
Who’s in, who’s out for Thursday
The Seahawks won’t play many, if any, starters much or at all Thursday against the Raiders.
But the game will be vital to a lot of young players still vying for roster spots.
Carroll updated the status of a few of those on Tuesday:
- LB Shaquem Griffin, who has missed the last two preseason games with a bruised knee, has returned to practice and will play.
- Safety Marquise Blair also returned to practice Tuesday and should play. He bruised his back against Minnesota.
- Center Joey Hunt suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Chargers and is out indefinitely. Hunt’s injury could mean Marcus Martin, who has 24 career NFL starts with the 49ers and Cowboys including some at center, could play substantially at center on Thursday.
- WR DK Metcalf won’t play against the Raiders but continues to make good progress after having minor knee surgery last week. “He is going to be moving around this week and we will see where he is,’’ Carroll said. “We have really high hopes that he is going to make a really fast return. We just need to see how it goes one day at a time.’’
Carroll deeply inspired by Bill Russell
NBA great Bill Russell, who has lived on Mercer Island since becoming coach of the Sonics in 1973, attended practice and spoke to players and also had a long conversation with Carroll afterward.
“I could have talked to him all day,’’ Carroll said of Russell, who is now 85.
Russell has visited the Seahawks before during Carroll’s time — he usually reminds Carroll he was an original season ticket holder in 1976 and has followed the team closely since.
But Carroll said this visit had particular resonance because he had just read one of Russell’s books for the first time this summer — “Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner“.
The book was published in 2001, but Carroll said he only found it this summer and that “it really inspired the heck out of me because there was so much depth in the book talking about team and being a good teammate and the chemistry and the significance of chemistry on a team, and Bill was the epitome of making a great team.’’
Carroll noted that Russell was never the leading scorer on any of his championship teams, which included one Olympics, two NCAA titles with the University of San Francisco and then a memorable 11 in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics.
“He was never the highest scorer but he made everybody else great,’’ Carroll said.
Asked if the Seattle players knew who Russell was, Carroll said, “They do now.’’
Warren Moon visits practice
Former Seahawks QB and radio analyst Warren Moon was also a visitor at practice Tuesday.
Moon took an indefinite leave of absence in his role as the team’s radio analyst in December 2017 after he was sued for alleged sexual harassment.
Dave Wyman filled in for Moon the rest of the 2017 season and all of 2018.
However, the harassment suit was settled out of court earlier this month, and the team is leaving the door open for Moon to return in some capacity.