Why might Thomas Rawls play in a game that means nothing?
Pete Carroll has a reason. The Seahawks’ coach stated Wednesday there’s merit in starters getting into a “rhythm” of being full go during pregame warmups then playing in a game before the regular season.
“It is important for them to get their rhythm and stay with their rhythm. They get in the rhythm of the preparation process, and that’s why we like our starters to play,” Carroll said before the team departed for Oakland and Thursday’s preseason finale.
Carroll has done and said everything to show Rawls is ready to return to game action from his broken ankle Dec. 13 — except play him in a game.
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That might happen in Oakland.
“There’s no question that he looks to be able to play in the opener,” Carroll said Wednesday of Sept. 11 against Miami.
Asked if Rawls would get any carries in Thursday’s exhibition, Carroll gave one of his coy grins. He nodded his head goofily.
“Guess you are going to have to wait and find out,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the replacement for the retired Marshawn Lynch as Seattle’s featured runner would carry the ball against the Raiders. The Seahawks don’t need Rawls to prove he can run, especially not in a preseason game. Last season, he became the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for 160-plus yards in two different games.
Plus, Thursday’s exhibition is on the part-dirt field of the Coliseum in Oakland. There is no reason for Rawls to be making cuts on a recovered ankle and trying to evade tacklers off any of that dirt.
Yet Carroll made it sound as if Thursday won’t completely be Starters’ Vacation Night for Russell Wilson and friends. At least not until after most make a token appearance.
Lynch did that for many preseason games from 2011 through last summer with the Seahawks: fully participate in pregame warmups, start the game and basically be a decoy for a couple plays, then call it a night.
“They get the benefit of another week, they get their mind right and they go out and play football and then the coaches take them out,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot to be said about that process, and so we want respect that and see if we can get one step closer to the best we can be for the regular season.”
One starter unlikely to be in uniform is Michael Bennett. The Pro Bowl defensive end missed his third consecutive practice Wednesday while in Southern California for treatment (and likely an injection) on his troublesome big toe. He had the same treatment during a game week in December and still played, and as Carroll noted, this treatment regimen has become routine for the 30-year old. So the Seahawks are not concerned.
“Yeah, Mike’s been doing this procedure for years. It just takes a few days to get it done,” Carroll said. “He used to get it done in Carolina; he’s getting it done in California now. Everything is right on schedule.”
Jimmy Graham is also on schedule in his return from a ruptured patellar tendon on Nov. 29. The tight end fully participated with the starting offense all this week in practices.
“We’re thrilled about it. He is, too,” Carroll said, just before Graham walked by clapping enthusiastically at his coach. “He had a full week of practice. He’ll have another full week of practice, and we’ll just keep taking it day to day. It’s really a day-to-day thing to see how he recovers. But he’s doing great. And we’ll see what that means. We won’t know until late next week.”
Carroll didn’t want to discuss the chances that Graham plays in the opener against the tight end’s hometown Dolphins. The coach shrugged, raised his eyebrows, grinned again and said, “Chances?”
There is just one starting position still available a week and a half before the opener. Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb are likely to continue alternating at right tackle with the first-team offense as they have in practice all week, with Gilliam first and Webb second. Webb lost two weeks and his starting job there because of a sprained knee and has been wearing a brace on it since.
Bradley Sowell has won the left-tackle job. And veteran Mike Morgan has seemingly won the job to replace now-Raider Bruce Irvin as the starting strong-side linebacker.
Thursday also will be important for rookies such as running backs C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins. Prosise, the third-round pick, missed more than half of August with a hamstring strain. Coaches want to see him play more before they give him the job of third-down back and pass catcher. Collins, the fifth-round choice, had a strong training camp then tailed off in the first preseason games. He’s had assignment mistakes such as pass blocking and needs to run more decisively in short-yardage situations.
Tanner McEvoy, the big, undrafted rookie from Wisconsin with a chance to make the team, “could” play Thursday, Carroll said. The 6-foot-5 1/2 McEvoy was an impressive wide receiver this month, then moved to tight end when rookie Nick Vannett got a high-ankle sprain. McEvoy strained his groin in last week’s preseason win over Dallas and missed two practices before returning Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the team needs to see McEvoy block more to decide if he is a viable tight end.
Carroll sounded optimistic rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed (toe) could return to practice next week in time to play in the opener. The coach didn’t sound as positive about Vannett getting back for the opener. That makes it even more likely Brandon Williams will make the team as a fourth tight end.
BILLS CLAIM LEWIS
Buffalo claimed Patrick Lewis off waivers from the Seahawks. Seattle on Tuesday waived its starting center for the latter half of the 2015 season.
Justin Britt, the former right tackle and left guard, has won the center job for this season.
FOUR TO IR
Running back George Farmer, defensive back Trovon Reed, former Washington Huskies wide receiver Kevin Smith and ex-UW defensive end Josh Shirley all cleared waivers and went on Seattle’s injured-reserve list. The Seahawks had waived/injured all four of them on Tuesday.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS
Thursday 7 p.m., Oakland Coliseum
TV: Ch. 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: This is the 11th consecutive year these teams have met in the final preseason game, but only the third time in Oakland. Seattle leads the all-time exhibition series 10-4. The last time the Seahawks played at the Raiders to end the preseason was two summers ago. Derek Carr came off the bench to light up Seattle’s defense in the first half to win Oakland’s starting quarterback job. He’s had it ever since.
Find the right tackle: Is it Garry Gilliam? Or former Raider J’Marcus Webb? Webb was No. 1 at right tackle from May until he sprained his knee this month. Gilliam, last season’s right tackle, moved from left tackle back to right when Webb got hurt and has been first there since. They are likely to both play there early in this one. Webb has moved with difficulty on that braced knee since he returned to practice last week. Whoever plays better is likely to win the final starting spot still up for grabs. The rest of the line is set, with Bradley Sowell the new left tackle, Justin Britt the new center, Mark Glowinski the new left guard and rookie Germain Ifedi the new right guard.
Get Thomas Rawls ready: Maybe. But don’t expect him to carry the ball. Not on this half-dirt field. Pete Carroll sounded Wednesday like he wants Rawls to get a feel for a game again — he’s been out of game action since he broke his ankle Dec. 13. What a difference a year makes: Rawls was fighting for a roster spot as an undrafted rookie this time last year. Now he’s Seattle’s lead runner with the privilege of maybe or maybe not needing to even suit up before the games get real Sept. 11.
Don’t get anyone Romo-ed: Mac Engle of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeted immediately after Tony Romo completed his first pass for Dallas in the last week’s preseason game at Seattle to get Romo out of the game. Two plays later, Seahawks DE Cliff Avril broke a bone in Romo’s back with a hit. The absolute No. 1 task for Seattle down here Thursday is get back home with the same health among the same starters as the team had arriving here Wednesday. Expect the No. 1s to make token appearances, if that.
79 — Garry Gilliam, RT (6-5, 315, third season): He’s looked the better man at right tackle the last two weeks. Needs one more solid night to win job.
73 — J’Marcus Webb, RT (6-7, 331, seventh season): Still looks hobbled by sprained right knee. I still don’t see him as a roster lock. Needs a big night.
6 — Tanner McEvoy, TE (6-6, 230, rookie): Iffy (groin). Given the stakes, they may need to tie him down in the locker room to keep him out.
51 — Bruce Irvin, LB (6-3, 250, fifth season): Even if he doesn’t play, popular former Seahawk will be worth watching for yuks, pranks with pals.
19 — Jaydon Mickens, WR (5-10, 172, rookie): Engaging former UW Husky is a longshot to make Raiders’ roster.
17 — Marvin Hall, WR (5-10, 188, rookie): Mickens’ teammate in high school and at UW, now fellow undrafted free agent, is also a longshot.
Gregg Bell: email@example.com