One of the many reasons the NFL hasn't had a repeat Super Bowl champion since the 2003-04 Patriots is injuries to key starters.
The Seahawks are having a worrisome share right now.
Bobby Wagner, one of the most valuable stoppers in the middle of the defense, has a turf-toe ligament injury that coach Pete Carroll says may be like the one that sidelined Russell Okung for eight games in 2013 and led the left tackle to surgery.
"We'll have to take this the next couple days and see what that means. But he's banged up," Carroll said of his middle linebacker this afternoon, the day after Seattle's 30-23 loss to the Cowboys.
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Wagner had a season-low seven tackles in the game because he missed 24 of the defense's 75 snaps while he was getting his foot treated during much of the second quarter. He returned to play in the second half. He had been on pace with 43 tackles through four games before Sunday to break Terry Beeson's 1978 team record for tackles in a season.
Man, come to think of it, what kind of treatment must it have taken to get Wagner back to play the second half yesterday? Turf toe is an extremely painful injury that can shut guys down for more than a minute. Wagner was wearing a walking boot over his lower right leg in the locker room following the game.
Asked if Wagner's injury is similar to the one that caused Okung to go on Seattle's injured-reserve-with-a-designation-to-return list last season, Carroll said: "Could be. We are going to wait and see."
Carroll hinted the defense would consider moving outside linebacker K.J. Wright inside and use Super Bowl most valuable player Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan as outside linebackers if Wagner misses any games. Carroll praised Smith for his play during his 25 snaps against Dallas.
The Seahawks don't have the eight-week, IR-to-return option available this time if Wagner is out for an extended stretch. Teams get one of those designations per season, and Seattle has used its on nickel back Jeremy Lane after he had a groin injury from the exhibition season.
Speaking of, Lane can by that IR list's rules begin practicing next week, which Carroll said Lane is on track to do. Lane becomes eligible to play again on Nov. 9 when the Seahawks face the New York Giants.
Seattle is getting some defensive backs back healthy -- just as they are losing one.
The Seahawks got good news on Byron Maxwell -- at least as good of news as a leg strain can be. Carroll said his starting right cornerback has a calf strain and not the much more extensive and sidelining high-ankle sprain that Carroll feared immediately following the Dallas game Maxwell might have.
Carroll said the team does not yet know if Maxwell will be able to play Sunday at St. Louis.
"Like I didn't know last night, he has a calf strain. So that's encouraging," Carroll said. "Took us a while to figure that out. So that's encouraging. Should take nearly as long as some of the sprains that it could have been."
Second-year cornerback Tharold Simon is going to practice this week for the first time since minor knee surgery early last month.
"It's coming at an excellent time," Carroll said with a deadpanning chuckle.
Simon instantly becomes a candidate to not only play but get significant time against the Rams on Sunday. The Seahawks, who like his size and speed, have spent much of this early season in nickel defense. Heck, Steven Terrell played at nickel for 22 of the defense's 75 snaps against Dallas one day after Seattle signed him off its practice squad, and Marcus Burley -- the nickel before Maxwell got hurt and Burley replaced him at right corner -- played a bulk of the first half as the fifth defensive back inside.
If Simon had been healthy at the start of season the Seahawks may not have traded a sixth-round draft choice to Indianapolis for Burley, who has been something of a revelation.
"All along we've really been looking forward to Tharold's ability to contribute," Carroll said, "so this will be his chance."
But wait, there's more.
Carroll said two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger remains a day-to-day proposition because of the sprained foot that caused him to miss yesterday's game; Stephen Schilling got his first career start and delivered all 48 of the offense's snaps.
Kam Chancellor came out of Sunday's game fine, Carroll said, after he didn't practice last week because of a sprained hip. That indicates that even if the strong safety so important in run defense is limited in practices for the Rams game that begin on Wednesday Chancellor is likely to play in St. Louis.
Carroll had mentioned following the Cowboys game All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman had a shoulder injury. Today Carroll said Sherman is "fine" and will play against the Rams.
Tight end Zach Miller is at least a week or so from returning from his ankle surgery from late last month, the coach said.
Now on to today's mini-dust up over how injured Russell Okung is or isn't.
This afternoon KCPQ television in Seattle reported Okung has torn labrum cartilage in his shoulder he injured two games ago against Denver but continued playing through after missing a few plays. Carroll said that may or may not be so, but that whatever -- Okung is still practicing and playing as he has since the injury.
"Russell sprained his shoulder a couple weeks ago and came back and hasn't missed a practice since. He's been fine," Carroll said. "When you sprain your shoulder your labrum's involved. There's some stretching and stuff in there. I don't know how far that went. But he came right back from it. He's had full strength and support and all of that. So he's OK."
When I asked if Okung was OK to play Sunday against the Rams, Carroll looked surprised by the question and said, "Yeah, he's playing."
Here is the transcript of all that Carroll had to say today:
Head Coach Pete Carroll
October 13, 2014
(Opening) After watching the game film, it really confirmed that Dallas played a really good football game. They got us on a day when they really executed. They functioned really well, like they have been, and we weren’t able to do enough about it to stop them. They ran the ball like they like to, they threw the ball well and they probably played one of their better defensive games too. So we’re really disappointed with the way we played. As we look at it, to get to the truth of it, with 4:55 left, we got them third & 20 and we needed to stop them and get off the field and try to run the clock and win the game. We were up 23-20 at the time and boy we really had them and Tony Romo came up with a great play and a great throw and they make a great catch and get a first down and bang, bang, they’re down there scoring. So we really had a terrific chance to win the football game and we need to understand that regardless about how we felt about our play. But it’s a terrific win for Dallas and it’s a tough loss for the Seahawks and we have to get back and get right and get going again. So that’s really what it looked like in a general sense, I was really impressed with the way they performed. They did a great job. That’s why they’re 5-1 and they’re in great shape right now.
(On Byron Maxwell’s injury) Like I didn’t know last night, he has a calf strain so that’s encouraging. It took us a while to figure that out so that shouldn’t be nearly as long as one of the kinds of sprains it could have been.
(On how long Byron Maxwell will be out) I don’t know that.
(On if Byron Maxwell has a chance to play this week) I don’t know that. We will have to wait and see when we get back in the next couple of days.
(On if Tharold Simon will have a chance to play this week) Tharold will practice this week, yeah. It’s coming at an excellent time. We will see how he does. He’ll have to survive the week and all of that. He got out last week for a couple days so that helps him get started this week. All along we’ve really been looking forward to Tharold’s ability to contribute so this will be his chance and so we will see where that fits. I really can’t tell you how that’s going to go. We will have to get all the way till we get through Friday’s practice to know where we are with that.
(On Bobby Wagner’s toe) He’s got turf toe. We will have to take this next couple of days and see what that means. But he’s banged up.
(On the extent of Russell Okung’s shoulder injury) Russell sprained his shoulder in a game a few weeks ago and returned to that game and hasn’t missed a practice since so he’s been fine.
(On the report that Russell Okung tore his labrum) When you sprain your shoulder, your labrum’s involved and there’s some stretching and stuff in there. I don’t know how far that went but he came right back from it so he’s had full strength and support and all of that so he’s okay.
(On if Russell Okung will continue to play on just as he has been) Yeah, he’s playing.
(On if Bobby Wagner’s injury is similar to Russell Okung’s toe injury last year) Could be. We’re going to wait and see. We have to assess that and figure that out.
(On if Max Unger has a chance to get back this week) We will keep taking Max a day and at a time, see how he’s going. Stephen Schilling stepped in and did a nice job and filled in well. But we’d love to get Max back. We will see what that means. That will go all the way until the end of the week. I’m sure.
(On where Zach Miller is on his recovery) He’s still in the middle of his rehab so we’re not counting on him this week.
(On if managing the focus of the team is something that’s important with the hardship early in the season) Well, it’s important, yes. It’s really important that we handle well this past week. Just like the week before. They all can have an effect and I’m really tuned in that we have to bounce back and get right. What didn’t happen this week is we didn’t play a lot cleaner. We didn’t improve as much as we needed to from the Washington game so that’s still at hand for us. There were too many things that we did wrong. I feel like I did not do a good job taking them through this week. I told them, I felt bad that I didn’t get it orchestrated well enough where we would clean that stuff up so we have to do a better job this week and really zero in. We’re playing a very difficult team in the Rams and the way they style their defense. Offensively, in particular, we’re going to be challenged. We just have to get better. There’s a lot of room for improvement. The coaches were all over that. Players seemed to be willing to accept that they have to get better too. Everybody has to get right so we’re working on that. Point the finger at me first.
(On if he has any new thoughts on why Dallas was so effective on shutting down Percy Harvin after seeing the game film) They did a really good job on the perimeter early in the game which showed us where there emphasis was and we hoped to take advantage of that and it just didn’t work out. We fell into a rhythm that didn’t get us going, not converting, three plays in the second quarter because of circumstances. On the other side of the ball, it felt very much like the San Diego game, we couldn’t get the rhythm going, and we don’t ever want to play a game when Marshawn [Lynch] carries the ball ten times. That’s not enough. That’s not a format that we’re trying to build from. Sometimes you just have to do deal with it. In this game, we were still positioned to have a chance to win but it wasn’t the way that we wanted to play it and so there are a lot of factors that weigh into that.
(On if there is a series or two where he should have gotten the ball to Marshawn Lynch anyway when he looks at the film) We tried to unfold the plan, to do what we normally do and to kind of get the rhythm of it and to get the proportion of the run to the pass. But it just didn’t quite fit right and didn’t happen the way we wanted it to. A couple mistakes like getting behind the sticks and things like that affected it. We tried to get back to it in the third quarter and it just seemed like we never really caught up with how we like to manage the game. We don’t feel very good about that. We want to get that done every time we go out.
(On how Steven Terrell looked in the game) He made it. He made it through it. He survived, did a nice job on special teams and survived at the nickel spot. I mean that was a really good accomplishment for him. He found out a day before that this was happening so unfortunately or fortunately for him, he got a chance to play and he came through alright.
(On if he’s shopping in the secondary or if he’s going to go with what he has right now) We’re always looking to see what we need to do to support our situation. The fact that Tharold [Simon] is coming back and Jeremy Lane will be out practicing starting next week so we we’re going to get a boost coming back from those guys. It will be fantastic if Tharold can contribute this week and Jeremy’s back the next.
(On what he likes about Tharold Simon) Yeah, he has exactly the makeup and the style that we love. He’s long and tall and he’s got really good speed. He has natural instincts for the ball, great reach on him that allows him to be a factor in the press technique that we play. He’s really stood up to the challenges throughout the early part of this offseason and camp so we feel like we have a good sense for what he’s capable of doing. We’ve seen him against our best guys, go at it, and really match up well. He’s done okay in the games too so we’re hoping that he will be back, full strength and will find his confidence and his ability to play this week right away.
(On if he feels this year that the team has struggled playing with finding and playing with their identity consistently) Well we’ve had two games where we weren’t there. That’s a big factor, that’s 40 percent of what’s going on here. We’ve got to do a whole lot better here than we have. I think one of the things, when we got the blocked kick right off the bat, it felt like this could be one of those games where we could really get going and really find a big surge. It took us a while before we got the ball off them a couple times. It took a while before that happened. But not getting the turnovers is still a factor that doesn’t allow us to feel like were really playing the way we want to play. There’s contributing factors to that, we have to rush the passer better and things like that. I think we’re still working at it. Sometimes it takes quite a while before you find it and I don’t think we’re quite there yet because we haven’t found the consistency. We know what we’re trying to do, we know where it is and where it needs to be but we’re just not quite there yet.
(On how hard it is to game plan with injuries to the secondary) It’s a challenge, but you saw us adapt when we had to in the game. [Byron] Maxwell had a great start to this game. He was all over the football and was challenged openly right from the beginning. When Marcus [Burley] jumped up, we wanted to go ahead and control those matchups so you saw what we did, you’ve been asking that question for a long time and we answered it the way we would answer it with what we had, and you saw what happened when things changed; it was time to go ahead and matchup Richard [Sherman] and do his job on Dez Bryant; they had a great matchup in the game; both those guys were affective and showed real championship play I thought. It was a really cool matchup to watch. It will restrict some, it’ll add some, we have to work with it and we’ll figure it out.
(On did Kam Chancellor make it through the game ok) He did.
(On Kam Chancellor being able to practice) I think he will. I think judging from what I’ve heard from him coming out of the game, he should be able to go this week. He didn’t practice a snap last week.
(On defensive issues on third down) We had a mixture of opportunities on the distances; it was quite a few on the five and six range where they like to be; that’s what they’re great at, they’re the best third down team in the league and they were at it again. We weren’t able to get them out of that rhythm. I think we would have had an okay day, the start of it, had we convert on the third and twenty and third and fifteen that we had; to let them out of those two, we’ve been great at those situations and we’ve given up very few conversions on third and long like that, but they dump the ball, made one, and made the great catch on the other one. Tony [Romo] is real good at it and we were on the verge of having an okay game but we didn’t quite get it done.
(On offensive issues on third down) That’s always a factor; you’re talking about the distancing, that’s always a factor and that has to do with the consistency on early downs and that’s why running the ball is so important; the consistency in running is so important. So you hope you can knock out three or four yards, and get yourself into third three and four right in there and control that; that did not happen in this game. We don’t go into the game just to run the football, we go in the game to try and move it and score, but we felt that not being in the manageable situations on the offensive side.
(On K.J. Wright playing for Bobby Wagner at MLB if Bobby can’t go moving forward) We’ll have to wait and see on that one. Malcolm [Smith] played very good this week and the plays that he had, allows us to have the flexibility to do just that. We’ll see how that goes.
(On if Percy Harvin can be a part of the base offense) He’s in there on stuff. He’s practicing with all that stuff. We tempo our guys and keep them rolling; we like a lot of guys playing, so our guys go in and out.
(On Russell Wilson) Well there are a couple things in there; we’re real critical of Russell’s play always and he had a couple things he could have done at the line of scrimmage to help us in protection. We had four or five really highly contested throws and catches. If you look at it, they made some really nice plays. I think I noted last night on how aggressively they were able to make their plays on the ball. When we had to throw and the catch was there, they knocked balls out. You have to give them a lot of credit; they really came through in a big way there. So those were good throws that would’ve made a huge difference, but give Dallas the credit for defending them. He had a couple plays that he’d like back; we got real resourceful a couple times and got a little bit scarier where the ball wind up going; just a hair from scoring a touchdown on the scramble throw to Marshawn [Lynch]; the ball goes over the top, and we’ll score like on other times there, but he’s got room to get better. He did last week too; we said the same thing last week. Everybody does; we always have areas to improve in and he does like the rest of the players.
(On end-around going to Bryan Walters) That was a broken play. We went the wrong way on it so let those guys figure it out.
(On the team throwing the deep ball less because of the competition they’re facing) No; if you go back and look, we had calls going down field and some got thrown and contested and some didn’t. We didn’t hit them like we’d like to; we got [Jermaine] Kearse on the first drive. We had Jermaine up the sideline; he makes a great play to make the catch—guy knocks the ball out. We had the play to Luke [Willson]; there are a number of other times. The seam routes that we throw, those are down field throws for us. You just answer a question of whoever is asking from the outside too. ‘Hey you’re not throwing the ball down field.’ We’re doing just like we always do; hasn’t changed at all.
(On if he feels like Russell Wilson is getting the protection he needs) Always could be better and there’s times where he could get the ball out just a hair quicker, but he’s resourceful and he has a style. He’s got to see it to throw it and sometimes he feels like he has a better option going somewhere else and we live with that style that he brings us; and it gets us all kinds of good stuff. Sometimes we miss a shot here or there, but basically he does a fantastic job of knowing when to and when not to.
(On how does he handle Doug Baldwin’s frustration) Well if I didn’t know who he was, how Doug is, and the kind of competitor he is, then I might wonder what the heck is going on. He was just frustrated and he was fired up and he wanted to do something to help, and he wanted to get it going and as it didn’t happen, he just vented some. He was talking to Russell [Wilson] on the sideline about stuff and trying to get everybody fired up, so there’s a fine line in there. He’s just frustrated about it—as we all were, that’s the way he expressed it.
(On how much does the offense have the philosophy that he wants) Whenever we’re running the ball a lot, then we’re fine. We come into this week, I think, with a lot of yards rushing. Not exactly the way we want to get it done, but with a lot of yards rushing and that’s really important to the make-up of our team. So when it’s not there, we all felt it. We felt the absence of it so we got to get right back to it because that’s the way we play and that’s the way we need to be playing.
(On is it simple to give Marshawn Lynch more carries) It really isn’t that simple, it’s not that simple. We’ve got to convert on third downs and we got to stay out of second and fifteen and first and fifteen; it affects the way the calling goes and we weren’t in sync as we need to be, and we need to be better. We’ve been there this year; we know how to do this, we just have to get right again.
(On Russell Okung having false starts) A couple different things; a couple weeks ago it was a silent count. There’s been a couple—it hasn’t been any one thing, but he’s just anxious to get moving and he’s been a little jumpy.
(On Percy Harvin not being on the field the last couple possessions) That’s just the rhythm of the game coming at us; who’s ready, who isn’t to go for the sequences. If you notice, we’re randomly kind of going about our substitutions; sometimes we get the guys that are exactly the right guys, sometimes we don’t—it depends on what happened the play before or the couple plays before.
(On Richard Sherman injuring his shoulder) He’s fine.