For Byron Maxwell, the time is now.
The Seattle cornerback, who is entering his third NFL season, was held back by injuries in his first two years.
A sixth-round selection by the Seahawks in the 2011 draft, Maxwell actually worked ahead of Richard Sherman on the depth chart during training camp his rookie year, but a balky ankle and a bout of pneumonia limited the Clemson product to nine games.
In 2012, slowed by shoulder and hamstring injuries, Maxwell again was limited to nine games.
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However, Maxwell received his most meaningful playing time late last season.
With starting cornerback Brandon Browner suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs, Maxwell played cornerback when Browner’s replacement, Jeremy Lane, moved inside to cover the slot receiver in obvious passing situations. That playing time with Seattle’s starting defense motivated Maxwell to work on staying healthy during the offseason.
“It’s my third year,” Maxwell said. “I’ve got to step up. I feel like it’s my time to make plays, and to make my mark in this league. I see my opportunity is there, so I’m just trying to take it.”
Maxwell, 25, said he has taken preventive measures such as using a foam roller on aching muscles before practice to prevent lactic acids from gathering, which can cause stiffness and longer recovery times.
Maxwell also uses ice tub treatment before practice and massages afterward to avoid nagging injuries that kept him out of practice in previous seasons.
“I’ve just got to stay on top of things,” Maxwell said. “When you’re young, you don’t know your body is your work. So you have to stay on top of your health. You have got to do the little things. Even though you don’t feel like doing those things, you’ve got to do them.”
So far it has helped. Maxwell suffered an ankle injury after the San Diego exhibition game — in which he corralled an interception and almost got another one — but only missed a day of practice this week.
“He’s having an awesome training camp,” Seahawks secondary coach Kris Richard said. “It’s good to see him back to his old self. He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do. He’s come out here and competed his behind off. I’m very pleased with his performance and production.”
With Browner and Sherman cemented as the team’s starting cornerbacks, and Antoine Winfield working as the starting slot defender, Maxwell is working with the second unit. He’s also one of the team’s core special teams players. Maxwell finished with eight tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on special teams for Seattle last season.
At 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, Maxwell fits Seattle’s prototype of long press corners who can run. And add another key trait for Maxwell: He’s not afraid to mix it up.
“First and foremost, if you want to play out here, you better have a little dog in you,” Richard said.
BATES TO FULLBACK?
Second-year receiver Phil Bates worked as a fullback with the running backs during individual drill work Thursday.
Bates is one of a handful of players fighting for the fifth or sixth receiver job, so the move can be seen as his willingness to be more versatile in order to earn a roster spot.
“We’re trying to see what we have there,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We’ve put Phil in at fullback a little bit. We want to see how he takes ahold of that, and just see what we have. We’ve had him here long enough. We know what we can expect from him on the outside. But he’s a big body, so we want to see him in the backfield.”
Second-year defensive tackle Jaye Howard returned to practice Thursday, the final day of training camp. Howard missed three days because of a shoulder injury. Veteran receiver Sidney Rice (knee) did not practice.
Other players who remain out included guard James Carpenter (foot), cornerback Ron Parker (hamstring), defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (groin), defensive end Bruce Irvin (groin) and running back Christine Michael (back spasms).
Tight end Zach Miller (foot), defensive end Chris Clemons (knee), cornerback Tharold Simon (foot), receiver Percy Harvin (hip) and defensive end Greg Scruggs (knee) still are on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Linebacker Korey Toomer (hip) remains on the non-football injury list.