The race is on for K.J. Wright to return for the Seahawks’ opener.
The updated timetable suggests Wright won’t win. That remarkable rookie Shaquem Griffin will start instead of the Pro Bowl veteran at linebacker for Seattle in its season opener Sept. 9 at Denver.
Coach Pete Carroll said following Wednesday’s walk-through practice for Thursday’s preseason finale against Oakland: “It was a clean-up job, you know, a scope; arthroscopic surgery” that Wright had Monday.
“Hopefully, a minimally-invasive type kind of approach to it, and that will really help in his recovery (time).
“They talked about a couple weeks (before Wright might return to playing). We’ll see. That’s the most optimistic they could be.
“Everything went really well, as we are always told, and (everyone is) very positive about it,” Carroll said of Wright’s procedure Monday. “He stayed a couple days to make sure he ensured he was recovering from the surgery. We haven’t seen him yet.”
The surgery occurred 13 days before the opener.
So it appears through the latest news on Wright that Griffin will be starting in his first NFL game, playing next to All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner against the Broncos.
The team and Wright linebacker suddenly decided he needed that to fix a knee that just wasn’t feeling right, according to Carroll. That decision came after Wright played 45 snaps at his usual weakside-linebacker spot next to Wagner Friday in the preseason game at Minnesota.
Wagner told me Tuesday he’s unaccustomed to not having Wright playing next to him in Seattle’s defense. But he’s not worried.
“Nah, I’m not concerned. We’ve been through too much to be concerned about him,” Wagner said. “It was something that was necessary for him to do. We’ve got to make sure he’s right. It’s definitely going to be a fun season, and we have to have him out there.”
Wagner said the knee had not been paining Wright or weighing on his mind for a long time but was a more recent concern for just not feeling right. That made Wright want to seek a solution now, to come back while the regular season was just beginning.
Wagner likened it to Wright leaving the team last August to get regenokine treatment. That alternative treatment involves spinning one’s blood to increase the concentration of healing agents and injecting that concentrated blood into that person’s injured area.
“I think it was one of those things, just what you do to maintain the body,” Wagner said of Wright’s knee scope.
The more realistic target for Wright’s return may now be the week two game at Chicago on Sept. 17.
After 218 combined starts, five playoff appearances, two Super Bowls, and five total Pro Bowl selections all while playing next to each other on all downs, running and passing, Wagner and Wright can finish each other’s sentences as well as play calls.
Now it appears Wagner will have to make all the calls in Denver during the opener.
“It’s a guy you’ve been playing with for seven years,” Wagner said of Wright. “We’ve got a good routine with our communication. We both help each other with calls. I have a lot of calls (before each snap). He helps me and takes some of the calls off my plate. Maybe I am talking to the line over here, and maybe he can talk to the DBs or the safeties over there while I’m doing that.
“So a lot of that is something that we’ve grown accustomed to. And you just get used to doing it that way. When he’s not there it’s, like, OK, I have to make those checks—and I have to make sure that whatever was over here has gotten checked, as well..
“So it’s a little more communication on my part.”
All this makes Thursday’s otherwise mostly throw-away preseason finale against the Raiders a bigger deal for Griffin.
Carroll said the fifth-round draft choice and first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL needs to get cleaner on his assignments as a backside inside linebacker in Seattle’s varying, 4-3 defense.
“Yeah, this is a really important opportunity for him (Thursday),” Carroll said. “Now, he’s played a lot (this preseason). He’s had extensive playing time, and he’s made great progress. He played his best game last week; even though he had a lot of tackles in the opener he played the best he’s played (at Minnesota). This is important to see that he continues to get better, that he cleans things up, that he continues to be accountable.
“He’s a running-and-hittin’ guy; we’re not worried about that. It’s just playing the scheme really well and be really precise about his fits (into his assigned run lanes) and all that.
“It’s a bit of a race for him to get there, because he’s been more of an outside guy in his career (in college at Central Florida). So we’ve adapted him to be an inside linebacker on the weakside, and we’d like to be able to use his range and his speed and all that...
“Now we’d just like to see him put it together again, then have a big week next week and add to that.”