On to the third option at weakside linebacker for the Seahawks.
Coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday Mychal Kendricks needs knee and leg surgery and will go on injured reserve, ending his abbreviated his season.
Carroll marveled that Kendricks played 44 of 58 snaps even though injured Monday night early in Seattle’s 21-7 victory over Minnesota. It was his first game back from an NFL suspension of more than two months for insider trading.
“Mychal’s going on IR. He needs to get work done on his knee,” Carroll said, adding doctors estimate his recovery time as six to eight weeks. “He got caught in a situation where he just got hit on the outside of his knee, and it got him. In unbelievable fashion, he finished the game. It was early enough that he fought through it the whole time.”
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Kendricks was starting at weakside linebacker against the Vikings because Pro Bowl veteran K.J. Wright missed his 10th of 13 games this season since arthroscopic knee surgery in August.
Carroll said Wednesday Wright continues to run and looks good, but is still likely “a couple weeks” from playing again.
The Seahawks have three games remaining in the regular season before a nearly certain playoff appearance.
Austin Calitro is the next option for Seattle at weakside linebacker, beginning with Sunday’s game at San Francisco (3-10). The Seahawks (8-5) are seeking their fifth consecutive victory that would secure a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs Jan. 5 or 6.
Calitro began the season as All-Pro Bobby Wagner’s backup at middle linebacker. By the second quarter of the opener, at Denver Sept. 9 when Wright was out, Calitro was the weakside linebacker for the first time in his career. The second-year veteran from Villanova replaced rookie Shaquem Griffin against the Broncos, after Griffin started but was missing run-gap assignments.
Calitro made his first fourth starts of his career this season. The fourth was two weeks ago, at home in the 43-16 win over San Francisco.
Cleveland waived him in May. The Seahawks signed him as free agent in June.
By August, after strong showings in training camp and in preseason games in which he played both middle and weakside linebacker, the latter for the first time in his football life, the former Football Championship Subdivision player at Villanoca forced his way onto the Seahawks’ roster.
“He’s been playing well since the day he came here,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said Wednesday.
“He’s been showing up and making plays throughout.”
As the season has gone on, coaches have noticed Calitro is more in the assigned run gap, and stronger in that lane when he’s there.
Calitro says playing middle linebacker behind Wagner makes him better able to fill in on demand at weakside linebacker, what Seattle calls the “Will” position.
“At middle I just have to know what everybody’s doing, and then because of that I now know why the ‘Will’ is doing what he’s doing, in certain (situations),” he said.
“The game just finally slowed down for me. I don’t feel like I’m playing catch-up like I was in the beginning of the seasons. I got comfortable with both positions now, and I know how each position fits off each other.”
As for Kendricks, the Vikings game may be the last one he plays for Seattle. The Seahawks signed the Super Bowl starter last season for Philadelphia in September for the rest of this season, knowing he has a sentencing hearing scheduled for January in federal court in Pennsylvania. He faces up to 2 1/2 to 3 years in prison, per that district’s sentencing guidelines.
Kendricks reportedly made $1.2 million on illegal deals between 2014-15 while with the Eagles.
“It’s been such a difficult season for Mike. My heart goes out to him,” Carroll said. “He wants to be a part of this thing so badly. But he doesn’t get to this time around.”
Carroll talked as if there will be a future for Kendricks in Seattle.
“We’ll look forward to getting him back next time and keeping him with us,” the coach said.
What about Wright with the Seahawks in 2019?
That looks like a longer shot by the week.
Wright, who turns 30 before next season, is ending the final year of his contract with Seattle. Playing in only in three of the first 13 times with no solid timeline on a return to the field does not bode well for the Seahawks giving him an extension.
Wagner has repeatedly, publicly lobbied for his team to re-sign his good friend and linebacker partner since 2012.