The Seahawks' offensive line has its glue guy back. But their defensive line has lost one of its emerging, young standouts just as the playoffs get going.
Max Unger is back at practice this afternoon, and coach Pete Carroll says his two-time Pro Bowl center appears ready to start Saturday night's NFC divisional playoff game against Carolina. Unger hasn't played in eight weeks, since he sustained a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee in the fourth quarter of Seattle's last loss Nov. 16 at Kansas City.
But Jordan Hill is out for Saturday and beyond. The second-year defensive tackle who has 5 1/2 sacks during Seattle's current six-game winning streak, a prime force late in games and a recent protege of veteran end Michael Bennett, injured his calf muscle last weekend while working out during the Seahawks' playoff bye. It's not related to the banged knee Hill got during the regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 28, Carroll said.
He went on the injured-reserve list later this afternoon. So his season is over no matter how far the Seahawks advance in this postseason.
"It's a pretty severe calf pull," the coach said.
The Seahawks filled Hill's place on the active roster by signing safety Steven Terrell off the practice squad for the second time this season. They signed defensive tackle Jimmy Staten to their practice squad.
Unger's return is a big deal this week, after two months of Seattle using midseason pick-up Patrick Lewis then Lemuel Jeanpierre and then Lewis again at center. A key to the Seahawks moving the ball on the Panthers Saturday is their line's ability to block Panthers speedy, All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Unger is the best communicator on Seattle's offense; when he's played this season the running game has been more consistent, quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't been chased on drop backs quite so much and Wilson has had a large chunk of protection-calls responsibilities taken off his plate by his symbiotic relationship with Unger.
"Tough year for the injuries. But I've got a good shot of being back out there this week," Unger said. "The bye week was huge ... especially not playing the last six weeks, jumping back in there."
Demarcus Dobbs, who had an ankle injury last month, is the first man up into Hill's role as primary defensive-tackle substitute on passing downs. David King, signed off Cincinnati's practice squad on Dec. 11, will also gain prominence this week, Carroll said.
As for Landon Cohen, the defensive tackle the Seahawks signed Monday to fill their last open spot on their 53-man active roster because they knew Hill was out: Well, I'll let you judge how ready he could possibly be.
Cohen, 28, was parking cars in South Carolina until Sunday night. That was when the Seahawks called him, around midnight Eastern Time, with a contract offer.
"I was sleeping -- in between watching (the Will Ferrell comedy) 'Step Brothers.' So I didn't see the phone call at first," said Cohen, who the team lists as 6-1, 290 but looks barely 6 feet tall; my TNT colleague Dave Boling remarked Cohen looked like the squat Lewis.
Hours later Cohen left behind the valet-parking company he's owned for a couple years in Spartanburg, South Carolina, "and rolled in the morning," as he put it, to Seattle.
Cohen, a seventh-round draft choice out of Ohio in 2008, worked out here in Renton for the Seahawks last month. He hasn't played this season or even been on anyone's practice squad since Buffalo released him this summer. He played in 13 games with three starts last season for Chicago, and didn't play at all in 2012. Carroll said Cohen has a playing style similar to Hill, which is to say quick and athletic on the inside.
What's he been up to lately?
"Lot of valet parking with my company (The Valet LLC). Lot of boxing and running up hills. ... yoga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A lot of body weight, balance, leverage," he said.
It's one thing to get a call during "Step Brothers" from an NFL team offering a job. It's another to get that call from the defending Super Bowl champions asking him to join them during the playoffs -- on the active roster, too.
When I asked Cohen about that, he said before today's practice: "I really haven't had time to process any of that, because everything is happening so fast. I feel like today after I practice with the guys I'll get to see what everything's about and all the things I see (about the Seahawks) on TV and all the energy that I feel right now, I'll be able to speak about that after practice.
I asked him how realistic it is to expect him to get game ready -- playoff-game ready -- by Saturday.
"That's not for me to decide," Cohen said. "I feel physically in good shape, as far as my wind. But it's a lot different when you have to get bumped around and guys are pulling on you and things like that.
"Oooh wee, come what may. That's a saying by Bob Marley. So whatever happens, happens. So I kind of play like that."
--Carroll said CB Tharold Simon's rapid return from a shoulder popping out of its socket during the Rams game two weeks ago means he's on track to play Saturday. But safety Jeron Johnson (elbow) is out.
--Carroll reiterated that WR Jermaine Kearse is back and ready to return this weekend. Kearse missed the Rams game with a hamstring injury.
--Asked about officials picking up the flag for what the referee had announced as defensive pass interference on the Cowboys late in the fourth quarter of what then became a Dallas win over Detroit in the wild-card round -- the result that sent Carolina to Seattle this weekend -- Carroll said the reversal was "startling, just startling ... an extraordinary call."