RENTON — Although he was focused on a specific play, Seattle Seahawks assistant defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel could have been talking about the 2013 season when he told Walter Thurmond, “It’s time to go,” during training camp drills Monday.
With starting cornerback Brandon Browner getting some rest, Thurmond took the majority of reps with the first-unit defense, making a handful of impressive plays.
“I felt great today,” Thurmond said. “My legs are there. I had a good talk with Coach Manuel, to get me some more confidence and stuff like that, and just really to try and finish plays.
“Even when the ball’s not coming to me, I just want to finish everything. So I took that type of mindset today, got some balls thrown my way and was able to make some plays.”
While Thurmond has always been considered a starting-caliber cornerback, a litany of injuries
limited him to playing in 22 games in his first three seasons with Seattle.
Thurmond battled back from reconstructive knee surgery during his senior season at the University of Oregon and was a fourth-round selection by the Seahawks in the 2010 draft. After extensive rehab, Thurmond made it onto the field his rookie season, playing in 14 games, including a start at cornerback against Arizona on Oct. 24, 2010.
Thurmond, who will turn 26 on Monday, finished with 37 tackles and seven pass deflections his rookie season.
In 2011, the Seahawks traded Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati during training camp, opening the door for Thurmond to win the starting job opposite Marcus Trufant. But it was Browner who earned the nod. Thurmond went on to play in six games that season, including three starts, but his season ended when he broke his leg in October against Cleveland.
He re-broke his leg in March 2012 and needed surgery. He was on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for the first nine weeks of the regular season while rehabbing the injury.
Thurmond eventually played in two games last season, with one start against Arizona. But after missing three games because of a lingering hamstring issue, he was placed on injured reserve in December.
Thurmond, in the final year of his rookie contract, is set to make a base salary of $630,000 this season. He hopes the injuries are a thing of the past.
“This is the capabilities and abilities that I’ve had the whole time since they drafted me,” Thurmond said. “And now I really have the time to really showcase that I have to play with any injuries and things like that. I’m really just trying to compete every day.”
Along with competing for a starting job against Browner, Thurmond is locked in a tough battle with 15-year veteran Antoine Winfield for the nickel cornerback job.
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Thurmond is one of the quickest guys on the team, and he’s also physical enough to make tough tackles at the line of scrimmage in the run game.
“Inside’s a different beast because you’re almost a linebacker,” Thurmond said. “The receiver has a two-way go, and you’re playing with a lot more field. It’s two different beasts, and I love them both.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he’s excited to see how Thurmond will play in Thursday’s exhibition opener at San Diego.
“Right now, he’s trying to win that nickel spot,” Carroll said. “That’s the first thing. And then he wants to play at corner, too. And he can do both. He has shown up most at the nickel spot, a place we’ve always wanted to get him into because of his great quickness and play-making style.
“This is going to be a real battle between (him) and Antoine at that spot, and we’ll see how that works out. Antoine’s a gifted football player. And Walter being as healthy as he’s been, it’s really been a great boost — for us to see him, and for his confidence. It’s really up, and he’s playing well.”
Center Max Unger did not practice Monday because of an undisclosed injury, although he indicated during a radio interview that he’s fine.
A more troubling development was guard James Carpenter limping off the field midway through practice. He did not return. Carpenter underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the offseason.
Carroll did not talk with reporters after practice, so no updates were provided on the status of Unger or Carpenter.
Other injured players who sat out Monday included receiver Bryan Walters (undisclosed), defensive tackle Jesse Williams (knee), receiver Early Doucet (undisclosed), tight end Darren Fells (hamstring), defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring), receiver Stephen Williams (neck), defensive end Michael Bennett (undisclosed), defensive end Bruce Irvin (groin) and cornerback Ron Parker (hamstring).
Carroll said running back Robert Turbin (foot) passed his physical, but he did not practice Monday.
Tight end Zach Miller (foot), defensive end Chris Clemons (knee), cornerback Tharold Simon (foot), receiver Percy Harvin (hip) and defensive end Greg Scruggs (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list. Linebacker Korey Toomer (hip) remains on the non-football injury list.
Receiver Sidney Rice, who was in Switzerland last week to get treatment on his knee, participated in team drills for the first time during training camp and looked explosive. Tight end Michael Palmer (groin) and fullback Michael Robinson (ankle) returned to practice.