Jimmy Graham is returning sooner than the Seahawks might have thought.
As in, apparently on time for the start of the regular season.
Coach Pete Carroll said Friday he expects the star tight end to play Sunday in the opener against Miami at CenturyLink Field. It will be Graham’s first game since he ruptured the patellar tendon in his knee on Nov. 29.
“He had a great last few weeks. He’s done everything we’ve asked from him, and he couldn’t be more excited to play,” Carroll said.
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When asked if he expects Graham to indeed play against the Dolphins after he missed all four preseason games, Carroll said: “I do. I do expect him to play.”
Graham politely declined to comment when approached at his locker following Friday’s practice, in which he again fully participated with the starting offense.
Across the locker room, Christine Michael was smiling.
One year ago Tuesday, Michael drove away from Seahawks headquarters. Seattle had just traded the former second-round pick to Dallas for not much more than a bag of kicking tees. The Cowboys soon released him, too. So did Washington — off its practice squad.
But Michael will be the Seahawks’ starting tailback when they open the 2016 season on Sunday against Miami at CenturyLink Field.
“He’s had a reawakening,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
Carroll confirmed Michael will start after a sterling preseason. It’s a reward for the dedication he showed in training camp.
It’s also an acknowledgement projected lead back Thomas Rawls will be playing in what is essentially his second “preseason” game, part of his long way back from a broken ankle and torn ligaments in December.
Rawls will play, but off the bench, with a metal plate and screws still in his leg.
“I’m fired up and ready to go. I’ve worked so hard and the opener is here. I’m excited,” Rawls said.
“A huge accomplishment. I’ve worked so hard at it. I’ve had some ups and downs with it.”
Michael’s accomplishment: going from sent away by Seattle a year ago and unemployed last November to an opening-day starter.
“I felt like in all my heart, as crazy as it sounds, I always said it — don’t know if I wrapped my head around it, but I mentioned it to myself, man: ‘For some reason I feel like I’ll end up back there,’ ” Michael said of Seattle.
“I just feel like the people here really cared about me when I was here the first time, man. They wanted me to get it so well. They believed in the talent; if not, they wouldn’t have drafted me. They loved me as a person.
“It was me. I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t as consistent every day as I am now. I was just being a little knucklehead, you know?
“But I did tell myself, ‘Damn, I think I’m going to be back there at some point in my career.’ And it happened sooner than I expected.”
Part of this is he’s 25 years old now instead of 21, straight out of Texas A&M.
Then there’s little Mia (3) and Christine Jr. (five months). His children are living back in Dallas with his mother, who got a job there when Michael was playing for the Cowboys early last season.
They are why Michael has his renewed dedication in his second stint with the Seahawks.”
“I have two babies. That’s my life, there,” he said. “That’s what I come to work for. That’s what I think about when I’m on the field, getting up from plays — ‘My children. Children, children, children.’ ”
Though his starting status is temporary — when Rawls is ready for his 20-plus-carries workload, he’ll be starting — Sunday is Michael’s prime opportunity to begin cementing more of a 1A status in Seattle’s backfield.
Far more than the Z — as in, zero — status he had exactly one year ago.
“I’m in a great position to do great things for myself,” he said. “Hopefully, I keep going.”