Doug Baldwin is back from his knee injury.
But, fitting this summer of increasing pain and problem for the Seahawks, the Pro Bowl wide receiver says his issue isn’t going away.
“It will be something we’ll have to manage throughout the year,” Baldwin said Tuesday after he spent a second consecutive day in the same practice uniform as his teammates doing wide-receiver drills, then spending the scrimmage time on conditioning runs along a side field.
So expect Baldwin, who turns 30 next month, to be on the Seahawks’ midweek injury reports missing practice time throughout the coming season. The team will learn soon whether that also means a decrease in Baldwin’s team-leading snap counts at receiver.
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Baldwin’s answer came after being asked if he will be full go, without restrictions, next week while preparing for the Seahawks’ season opener Sept. 9 at Denver.
Baldwin’s news that his knee will be a pain-management and maintenance issue comes one day after Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright suddenly left the team to have arthroscopic knee surgery.
It came on the same day Frank Clark, the team’s lone proven returning pass rusher, missed another practice after a hyperextended elbow.
And it came with fellow starting end Dion Jordan still not back from a stress fracture in his leg that has kept him off the field all preseason and has his roster spot in danger of going onto an injured list to begin the season.
Baldwin said he first felt pain in his left knee in early June during practices of organized team activities. He stayed off the field for the three-day mandatory minicamp Seattle had in the middle of that month. He practiced the first two days of training camp July 26 and 27, and realized the pain was getting worse.
That’s when he stopped participating in drills. He left the team briefly for what coach Pete Carroll said was “special treatment,” thought to be the same regenokine, blood-spinning recovery therapy Wright and other Seahawks veterans have had since last summer at a clinic in Malibu, Calif.
Asked if he was or will be 100-percent healthy now that he took a month off, Baldwin grinned.
“I haven’t felt 100 percent since I was born,” he said.
“I’m probably about 80, 85 percent right now. The truth of the matter is, I probably won’t be 100 percent. It’s something I’ve got to deal with for the rest of the season.”
Still, a 90-, 80-, heck, 50-percent Baldwin is vital to Seattle’s offense in this season with a new coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer) instilling new fundamentals in quarterback Russell Wilson, a new blocking scheme (implemented by new line coach Mike Solari) and new questions.
Baldwin is Seattle’s $46 million wide receiver, a former undrafted rookie out of Stanford who has made himself through will, pride and skill one of the NFL’s best slot and third-down receivers. He has been selected for the last two Pro Bowls. Wilson has thrown to Baldwin 344 times the last three seasons, an average of seven targets per regular-season game. That’s produced 247 catches and 29 touchdowns. One-third of Wilson’s 89 touchdown throws in all games to all receivers over the last three years have gone to Baldwin.
Baldwin tied Bobby Engram’s team record for receptions in a seasons with 94 in 2016. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches in 2015.
Last season he played 79.9 percent of Seattle’s offensive snaps. For the fourth consecutive season that was the most playing time for any non-lineman on the offense outside of Wilson. You have to go back to 2013 and Golden Tate to find a Seahawk skill-position guy outside of QB who’s got more snaps on offense than Baldwin.
So, yes, his return, even while still needing whatever maintenance and management for the knee, is a big deal for these Seahawks.
“It’s nice to be back feeling myself running again,” Baldwin said. “Over a period of time—I mean, I’ve been playing this game since I was 6 years old—I don’t know what it’s like to not have football in my life. To be out this long, I don’t want to...it was hard. It was hard emotionally.
“I’m glad to be back out there.”