Kam Chancellor is back in.
But is Christine Michael out? That appeared to be the Seahawks’ situation at running back as the team left for Boston on Friday ahead of Sunday night’s test at favored New England.
Seattle added Michael to its injury list, well after practice, with a new hamstring injury. That leaves rookie C.J. Prosise, drafted out of Notre Dame in the third round in May, increasingly likely to make his first career start, or at least get the most extensive work of his young career against the Patriots.
Michael was on the practice field Friday and participated. The team listed him as limited.
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Chancellor will start for the first time in five games at strong safety, the position where the self-proclaimed “Enforcer” has been voted into the Pro Bowl four times. He’s missed a month with a pulled groin.
His return is just in time to defend the NFL’s best two-tight end attack: Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, especially on routes down the hash marks. That has given Seattle problems for two seasons, even when Chancellor has played.
That’s only been four times in the Seahawks’ last 11 games. Kelcie McCray has started for him and done well in coverage and tackling.
But to the Seahawks, McCray is no Kam Chancellor. No one is.
“He’s a terrific part of our team and has always been a great leader and a great impact player,” coach Pete Carroll said following Friday’s indoor practice. “When you asked me before if we miss him, yeah, we miss the guy.
“There’s only one guy like that, so it’s great to have him back.”
Chancellor was grinning at his locker before practices this week. He got hurt in practice following Seattle’s bye week last month, then tried to come back about a week later and hurt it worse.
Since then, he’s been on the sideline during games, in sweats with an earpiece in, listening to defensive coordinator Kris Richard’s calls and yelling out opposing pass patterns before they happen.
“It was pretty tough, but I made the best of it. Concentrated on my leadership skills,” Chancellor said.
He re-enters the lineup as the most rested of the 11 starters on a Seattle defense that’s played 244 snaps in the last three games, and was on the field for more than 40 minutes Monday night against Buffalo.
“Of course, I’m fresher,” Chancellor said. “But I think it made those guys stronger, even though they had to play all those reps.”
Asked how much urgency he felt to play again, Chancellor looked up at a clock and then out to the practice field and said: “I’m trying to get outside right now. That much urgency.”
Michael may be feeling some urgency about his place in Seattle’s offense.
He has been showing wear for weeks as the lone primary back while Thomas Rawls has been out since Sept. 18 with a cracked fibula. Though Carroll said Rawls looked great while running this week, the replacement for retired Marshawn Lynch as the Seahawks’ lead back won’t play at New England.
Carroll said that “I think we really have a chance” to have Rawls play Nov. 20 at home against Philadelphia.
Prosise has carried the ball nine times for 30 yards this season. That’s because he missed six weeks with a broken hand. Sunday will be his fourth game back from that.
Carroll sounded like Prosise’s workload is about to jump. Dramatically.
“He fits very well,” Carroll said, citing the former Notre Dame wide receiver — until his senior season — for his versatility as a rusher, receiver and even as a capable pass blocker. “Just trying to grow with him and figure out where he fits. ... It’s just all positives.”
Carroll said the team is seeking “how to fit him in,” adding: “We hope he can contribute in a bigger way.”
The timing is more than coincidental.
Michael had his career day of 106 yards on 20 carries and his first two touchdowns of the season on Sept. 25 against San Francisco. But since that big day against the worst-run defense in the Western Hemisphere, he has rushed for 58, 64, 52, 40 and — against Buffalo —1 yard. Yes, five carries for 1 yard against a Bills defense that had been 25th in the league against the run entering that game.
For the season, Michael has 447 of Seattle’s 603 yards on the ground in this his second stint with the team since the Seahawks drafted him in the second round in 2013. He’s averaging 4 yards per rush with six of the team’s eight rushing touchdowns.
He’s made mistakes that were relapses into his failed, first go-round with the Seahawks. He went out of bounds untouched short of the line to gain at Arizona. He flinched out of his tailback stance on second-and-goal at the 5 on a drive at New Orleans the following week that ended in a field goal instead of a touchdown — in a game Seattle lost, 25-20.
Seattle is 30th in the NFL in rushing offense, a precipitous fall for a team that for the last five seasons has had one of the league’s top running games. A large part of that has been quarterback Russell Wilson’s high-ankle sprain on his right leg and sprained medial collateral ligament on his left knee. But when your running backs rush eight times for a total of 10 yards, as Michael and Prosise did against Buffalo, yes, that’s an issue.
This week, line coach Tom Cable said the Seahawks linemen and backs did not target defenders or holes correctly on seven of 10 runs against Buffalo. Two of those three correct reads, Cable said, were by Prosise: on a dive play and a wide zone-read run off right tackle.
“By a tight end, by a tackle, by a guard, (the running backs) they weren’t reading it. So it’s kind of everybody,” Cable said of the plentiful read errors in the running game.
The Seahawks also have rookie fifth-round pick Alex Collins at running back, but it’s clear by this midpoint of the regular season, they don’t trust him to be a productive, every-down back. Collins has nine carries for 17 yards with one touchdown.
Just as a reminder: Seattle last week signed preseason rushing leader Troymaine Pope to the practice squad.
THE LEFT TACKLE IS … ?
Bradley Sowell is questionable to play Sunday. Carroll wouldn’t say whether it will be Sowell, the starter at left tackle for the first six games, or undrafted rookie George Fant, who has started the last two games, going against New England.
The coach gave one of his standard Friday lines of having to wait and see until game time before deciding who to start.
Carroll said Michael Bennett, Martellus’ brother, is already running on a treadmill, one week after the Pro Bowl defensive end had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in Los Angeles.
Carroll said all is going “really well” with Bennett’s recovery. The team expects Bennett to return in one to two weeks.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle