RENTON Kam Chancellor and his wife walked into team headquarters and down a hallway. On the other side of the wall Chancellor’s teammates were practicing for Monday night’s game against Atlanta.
But Chancellor and his spouse walked past the indoor practice field, past the star strong safety’s locker room, and directly upstairs. That’s where Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s office is, among those of other team leaders.
Nothing is definitive yet, but it looks and sounds as if Seattle is going to be without Chancellor for at least Monday’s game—if not beyond.
"He’s still getting some work done, tests done. Don’t have anything updated yet," coach Pete Carroll said of Chancellor’s neck-stinger injury he got late in Seattle’s damaging win at Arizona seven days earlier.
That’s on top of the Seahawks already missing Richard Sherman, out for the year. It’s also on top of trying to get Earl Thomas back from his own injury. Thomas returned to practice Thursday for the first time since he pulled his hamstring three games ago, on Oct. 29. Carroll was as definitive as he’s been that Thomas will play Monday, but he was limited in practice.
The Legion of Boom is more than half broken. Not the best time for Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the defending NFC-champion Falcons to be coming to town.
Reading tea leaves and hearing actual words around Seahawks headquarters Thursday left the impression Chancellor’s stinger-neck issue remains unresolved. And serious.
Asked if this is a week-to-week concern with his veteran soul of the star-packed defense, or if it was a longer-term concern, Carroll said, twice: "Don’t know that yet."
The coach’s next answer essentially confirmed Chancellor had been away from the team until late Thursday afternoon getting opinions from doctors. And it implied those doctors are taking more into account for Chancellor than just Monday’s game.
"I’ve only communicated with him; we will see him later," Carroll said. "I don’t know anything yet."
Chancellor apparently got hurt tackling Arizona running back Andre Ellington after a catch with 2:25 remaining in Seattle’s 22-16 victory on Nov. 9. Rookie Delano Hill played the final 10 plays of that game for Chancellor.
The Seahawks have dealt with a neck-nerve issue already this season, with Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril, who at 31 is two years older than Chancellor. Avril had numbness in his hands after getting kicked in the chin by Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett during a scramble on Oct. 1. Avril went on injured reserve while contemplating neck surgery. Carroll has said when asked if Avril might not play again, ever: “We have to wait and see on that.”
Sherman went on IR this week. He had surgery Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, performed by noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Bob Anderson. Carroll talked to Sherman by phone; the Seahawks expect the All-Pro cornerback to return to team headquarters on Friday.
“I know I’ll come back stronger,” Sherman said in his weekly video on The Players’ Tribune he posted Thursday. “It should be like four, five months.”
Monday night, the Seahawks will not have Sherman for the first time in his career that began with them 105 games and 99 starts ago, in 2011. Jeremy Lane is getting the first chance to start at left cornerback for him.
And how strange is that?
The Seahawks benched Lane last month from starting right cornerback then traded him to Houston before the Texans returned him to Seattle because of a failed physical. This week the Seahawks signed Byron Maxwell, their 2011-14 starter opposite Sherman at right cornerback. As soon as he proves he’s ready to play after sitting out three weeks since Miami released him, Maxwell is likely to be Sherman’s replacement for this season.
Now it seems increasingly likely the Seahawks may not have Chancellor, either.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
“I’ve never played a game without Richard. He’s definitely going to be missed.
“But to have both of those guys missing in action is not something that we’ve ever had to deal with. But I think it’s something that we’ve prepared for. We can hold it down until at least one of them gets back. The other one might take a while.”
That sure doesn’t sound like Chancellor will play against Atlanta, either.
Inside the locker room and on the practice field, Bradley McDougald is preparing to start at strong safety against the Falcons. That’s where he started for Tampa Bay before Seattle signed him this past spring. He has started the last two games at free safety, for Thomas.
Carroll was the most definitive he’s been yet on Thursday that Thomas will return from his pulled hamstring to play against Atlanta.
McDougald is ready to move over, and up more toward the line of scrimmage, Chancellor’s usual role.
“Nothing changes but my alignment,” McDougald said of strong safety versus free safety. “Preparation has been the same it’s been since week one.
“I just know I am going in as a starter now.”
That sounds definitive.
This is why Seattle signed McDougald, for the increasing likelihood that as Thomas and Chancellor approach 30 years old one or both of them would be out injured. Thomas has missed the first seven games of his eight-year career within the last 12 months. This is the fourth consecutive season Chancellor has missed multiple games due to injury. He missed just one game in the first four years of his career through 2014.
“Yeah, that’s another thing Pete talked to me about when I first got here: ‘We are going to play new players, and we felt you can make an impact on this team. We are going to get you on the field,’” McDougald said.
“Never want it to be because of injuries. But that’s a part of the game. In case, that’s why I’m here.”