RENTON First Marshawn Lynch left. Now his former roommate’s place on the Seahawks is in jeopardy because of an injury in the first days of training camp.
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed following Monday’s third practice of camp what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had said Sunday, that tight end Cooper Helfet broke a bone in his foot. Carroll said Helfet needs surgery.
That will put him weeks behind in a crowded tight-end race, days Helfet cannot afford to miss.
Ex-Oregon Duck Brandon Williams, formerly with Carolina and Miami, has been coming on at tight end while Jimmy Graham recuperates his patellar-tendon knee injury from November on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Last month, Carroll referred to the signing of Williams in the offseason as something of a coup for Seattle.
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“You guys don’t know much about us picking him up, but he played for Carolina the last few years and we’re very fortunate to get him,” Carroll said. “He’s a very good special teamer, but he’ll add to that comp(etition at tight end).”
Tuesday, Williams caught passes from Russell Wilson while alternating with Luke Willson, who is a mainstay as the second tight end. At the end of group passing drills, free-agent tight end Ronnie Shields caught a long ball from Wilson. Rookie draft choice Nick Vannett got praise from Bevell Sunday for his catching. That was the same day the team found out about Helfet’s foot and signed rookie free-agent tight end Clayton Echard from Missouri.
Williams told me he knows it is only a matter of time before Graham comes back, yet he knows this is a big opportunity for him. Williams also, by the way, loves the music and fun Carroll has at practices and meetings. He said it’s a far cry from life as a Dolphin and Panthers.
“I love it,” Williams said of the Seahawks’ environment.
Carroll said Saturday Graham needs more practices before the opening game Sept. 11 than fellow PUP-list Seahawk Thomas Rawls, because tight end is more intricate in blocking schemes and pass routes than running back.
When I asked Carroll Monday if, given that, Graham needs to play one of the four preseason games that begin Aug. 13 at Kansas City and end Sept. 1 at Oakland, the coach said no.
“It’s not about the games. It’s about getting his work in out here,” Carroll said, gesturing toward the practice field in front of him.
Carroll’s Seahawks have typically kept three tight ends on the 53-man roster to begin the season, but Williams’ reputation as a special-teams contributor could make that four this year. Let’s safely assume, as the Seahawks expect, Graham is on that 53-man roster and not the PUP list to begin the real season, and that Seattle is not going to cut its third-round draft choice (Vannett). That leaves Williams, Shields, Echard and the now-shelved-indefinitely Helfet for perhaps one tight-end spot, or none if the Seahawks keep three again.
Helfet’s had 25 receptions and two touchdowns in the last two seasons as Seattle’s third tight end. He’s been with Seattle since 2012 when he spent the first of two seasons on its practice squad.
You can see how long Helfet’s odds now are to stay here.
Two other injury items from Monday’s practice:
▪ Rookie running back C.J. Prosise remains out and wearing a sleeve on his right leg. Carroll said the former Notre Dame wide receiver the Seahawks drafted in the third round to be their new third-down running back has a “grade-one” hamstring strain and may miss at least 5-8 more days. Sunday, Bevell noted how Prosise needs to get back on the field; his offense has specific plans for the rookie.
▪ Defensive end Frank Clark had an ice pack on his lower right leg instead of going through drills. Carroll said he believed the issue was “minor.” The coach said Saturday the Seahawks didn’t use Clark enough last season when he was the team’s top draft choice, and that he will play “a ton” this season.