RENTON What’s this, running backs Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise may be in a mini-competition to return from the injured-reserve list?
“He will be racing--and I say this with all optimism--with Chris Carson to see who comes back first,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Seattle put Prosise on injured reserve Tuesday.
Here’s betting the Seahawks hope Carson wins that race. Or at least that Prosise doesn’t get hurt yet again in it.
The team put Prosise on IR because the perpetually injured third-down back was out of ankles to sprain. He got his second high-ankle sprain in three months, on the other leg, during the second half of last week’s win at Arizona.
Carson has been on injured reserve since Oct. 2, the day he had surgery on his left ankle. The rookie seventh-round draft choice seized the lead running-back job this summer with decisive running that bulled through defenders. He was Seattle’s leading rusher with 208 yards through three-plus games when he got a serious high-ankle sprain and fractured his leg during the win over Indianapolis on Oct. 1.
NFL rules state each team can return up to two players each season from IR, after they’ve been on it for at least eight weeks.
Seattle has six other front-line players on injured reserve. Cornerback Richard Sherman just went on Tuesday with his torn Achilles and is no option to return. Neither is left tackle George Fant, who had reconstructive knee surgery in August. Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril has a neck issue that is serious enough that his career is in doubt; he’s been contemplating neck surgery. Special-teams mainstay Dewey McDonald underwent surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in late September, so he’s going to remain out. Fullback Tre Madden (calf) and offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo (surgery on multiple fingers) could be candidates to return, but are less important to the here and now for this team than are Carson and Prosise.
For Carson eight weeks is in time for the Dec. 3 home game against Philadelphia. Sure, the Seahawks (6-3) could use Carson against the Eagles (8-1) to spark a running game that remains dead with Thomas Rawls the current No.-1 back and Eddie Lacy sidelined recently by a strained groin. Quarterback Russell Wilson is this team’s leading rusher , and most of his 290 yards on the ground have been on scrambles away from pressure on pass plays.
But Carroll is talking later than early December for Carson’s possible return, perhaps into early January and the playoffs, if Seattle gets that far.
“We will see what happens down the road,” Carroll said, “with the thought that hopefully we have a chance to keep playing and we got some games left, and we will see what happens when we get there.”
Prosise could first return from IR on Jan. 9. That is before the divisional, second round of the playoffs. Carroll said following Tuesday’s practice the reason the team chose to give up his roster spot for now and put him on the list was because it appears from experience with this injury and him that Prosise will miss at least six weeks.
Thing is, Prosise has only been active for 11 of the 27 games the Seahawks have played since they selected the former Notre Dame wide receiver in the third round of the 2016 draft. He returned from a high-ankle sprain to play last month against the New York Giants--then lasted two plays before it was obvious the ankle wasn’t healed enough to play. He remains a situational player, best fitting on third downs as a pass receiver and slashing runner on draws and delays past pass rushers. And right now, until he proves otherwise, the Seahawks simply can’t count on him to do anything but get hurt again.
“C.J. is a marvelous player, but he has just not been able to stay healthy,” Carroll said. “So we are going to give him the time to get well and heal it up.”
Carson has proven in his short time playing he can be a dynamic runner who creates yards with bursts that plow through defenders at or even behind the line of scrimmage. That’s a huge asset to have in an offense whose line often fails to create desired running lanes. A back creating his own yards without blocking is something Seattle has lacked since Marshawn Lynch got injured then left at the end of the 2015 season.
That’s why the Seahawks are assuredly hoping Carson, not Prosise, can win that race back to the field.
“He just looks good working out. I’m pretty optimistic about him,” Carroll said of Carson, a favorite of the coach’s since the day Seattle drafted him. “I’m hoping he can make it back and finish some football this year. I don’t know.
“I’m looking at it about the same as C.J. We will see what happens. And the docs would be mad at me for telling you that, but I’m hoping that is what is happening. So, what the heck?”
In the meantime, the Seahawks have three healthy runners for Monday night’s home game against Atlanta (5-4): Rawls, former wide receiver and Falcons kick returner J.D. McKissic as the third-down back and now Mike Davis.
The Seahawks signed Davis off their practice squad Tuesday to take Prosise’s place on the active roster. Davis was the Seahawks’ leading rusher during the preseason with 106 yards on 24 carries. The 24-year old was the 49ers’ fourth-round draft choice out of South Carolina in 2015. He is 5 feet 9, 217 pounds and had 54 carries in two seasons for the 49ers.
When the Seahawks signed Davis off waivers from San Francisco in May, that gave them 11 running backs. Now they have just three healthy ones, as Lacy tries to get back from his groin injury he got six carries into his chance as the lead back two games ago.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Davis said. “For one, we are playing the Falcons and I’m from Atlanta, so it’s something I always wanted to play against them.
“It’s been 10 weeks since (I’ve been on the practice squad). Not just me but for anybody on the practice squad, whenever you get your chance you have to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity that you get.”
Given that it’s just him and Rawls as the only healthy, early-down backs right now, Davis is likely to get chances beginning Monday night.