RENTON – Four games.
That’s how many contests the Seattle Seahawks’ run-stuffing combo of Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane have lined up as the team’s defensive tackles this season.
And the results are pretty telling: In games the two have played together, the Seahawks allowed 80 rushing yards a contest. In eight games where one of the two has been out, the Seahawks have given up 149 rushing yards a game.
But for the first time in over two months, the Seahawks are on target to have both in the middle of the defense come Sunday.
Cole returned to practice Wednesday for the first time in six weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain late in the Oakland game. Cole was a little tentative during practice, but said he’ll be ready to play against San Francisco on Sunday.
Mebane missed five weeks with a calf injury, but returned to action at Arizona on Nov. 14.
“It just seems like it’s been an extremely long time, and I’ve missed getting out there with the guys,” Cole said. “And it’s been pretty hard, watching the game and watching my teammates and everything, especially knowing that I couldn’t help them like I’d like to. Hopefully I can help, and come back and contribute.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he wants to get a good look at how Cole responds before penciling him in as a starter.
“I’m anxious to get him back,” he said. “It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve had him. We’ll see how he does. If he can get back to how he was playing before – he was doing very well before he left and got banged up – he makes us stout and gives us experience.”
Adding insult to his injury, Cole said he suffered the ankle sprain on a meaningless play at the end of the Raiders game.
“I was going to my right and a guy basically to my left, their right guard, kind of jumped on the side of my leg,” he said. “There’s a proper way of cut blocks, and he just took it upon himself to kind of jump on the side of my leg.
“You know, there’s nothing I can do about that now. The only thing I can do is concentrate on moving forward and trying to help the team with the next few games.”
Mebane said he’s pleased to have his running mate back, and that Cole’s return creates more depth inside.
Junior Siavii started with Cole out, but now the team gains flexibility and could move Siavii outside to split time with Kentwan Balmer, the strong-side defensive end.
Pass rush specialist Craig Terrill rounds out the quartet, so the Seahawks again have four defensive tackles to rotate inside throughout the game.
“It’s pretty good to see him back out there healthy,” Mebane said. “That was kind of tough having just a three-man rotation. And now we’re back to having a four-man rotation. So it’s good to have that, and also it’s good to have him back.”
The Seahawks playing at San Francisco is a homecoming of sorts for Carroll.
He grew up in the Bay Area and played football at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Carroll served as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996 under coach George Seifert.
“It’s not going to affect me a whole lot but I like that that’s happening and I love San Francisco and I always loved the Bay Area,” Carroll said. “Candlestick is a big deal. I went there when I was a little kid, watching ballgames – baseball and football games growing up. I coached there too. There is a lot of background there.
“But we are not playing against George Seifert and Bill Walsh and those guys. It’s different. I don’t know these guys as well. I am not as familiar with their team. But when we used to go back and play those guys over the years it was my favorite challenge to go play (against) those great teams. I’ve grown up loving those guys and I knew every part of their programs.”
For the first time this season, the Seahawks will start the same offensive line for three consecutive games. Mike Gibson will start again at left guard in place of Chester Pitts, who suffered an ankle injury against New Orleans three weeks ago.
Pitts worked out with trainers while the Seahawks practiced at the team’s indoor practice facility, and Carroll said Pitts is still a week away from practicing.
However, even when Pitts returns, Carroll said there’s no guarantee he regains his starting job.
“Mike’s doing well,” Carroll said. “I don’t think we would do anything right now. We certainly would wait and see, and see how Chester comes back. But with the effort toward continuity, why would we go do it again, change it again?
“I think Mike’s earning his way, and Chester has to make it back out there and look good, prepared and really ready to contribute.”
Receiver Mike Williams is out of the boot and walking around, but he likely will not practice today or Friday as trainers try to determine how best to deal with the combination of his sprained left ankle and strained left foot.
Carroll said the team’s other starting receiver, Ben Obomanu, who suffered a deep cut on his right hand, will not practice for two days but both still could play in San Francisco on Sunday.
“We’re going to give them a couple days before we do anything with them and let everything quiet down,” Carroll said. “But we’re holding out hope that those guys still have a chance to play.”
Tight end John Carlson returned to practice after missing all of last week, including the Carolina game, with a hip injury.
Others not practicing for Seattle included linebacker Lofa Tatupu (knee), defensive lineman Chris Clemons (ankle) and linebacker Matt McCoy (head).
Cornerback Roy Lewis (knee) was a limited participant in practice, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (left wrist) was a full participant.