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Pete Carroll raises possibility Jimmy Graham may not be ready for start of regular season

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on who will and won't play Thursday vs. Vikings

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll discusses who will and won't play Thursday against Minnesota in the team's second exhibition game.
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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll discusses who will and won't play Thursday against Minnesota in the team's second exhibition game.

RENTON After saying this spring the Seahawks were “kind of counting on” star tight end Jimmy Graham being ready for the start of the regular season, Pete Carroll Wednesday for the first time raised the possibility Graham may not be ready when the games get real 3 1/2 weeks from now.

"Well, he’s making progress. We’ve had no issues, at all,” Seattle coach said one week after Graham came off the physically-unable-to-perform list for limited practicing in position and catching drills.

Since then, Graham has not participated in any team scrimmages. He’s watched those each day from the sidelines while wearing a baseball cap.

“Really, the work he is doing on the field, that will continue to increase throughout the next few weeks,” Carroll said of the NFL’s most prolific pass-catching tight end from 2011 with New Orleans until last year, when his Seahawks debut season ended in November with a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee.

“Really, we’re shooting for, where is he at the start of the season? We’ll evaluate then how much longer it may take, or he may be ready then. We don’t know that yet.

"But he feels good. He’s confident that it’s going along well. He’s got some tests coming up going into next week that will give us some more information, and, you know, we’ll see how it’s going. We are pleased that he’s upbeat about it and confident. He’s worked very hard to make sure that he takes full advantage of the rehab time, as well as the football time. He’s making good progress."

Graham not being ready for the start of the regular season has always been a possibility; his is a tricky injury with players who have had it before often taking a while to come back, and sometimes then not as the same player. But Carroll and general manager John Schneider have both spoke optimistically that Graham was likely to be ready for the first game of 2016.

Graham and lead running back Thomas Rawls, who also came off the PUP list last week, will not play in the team’s second preseason game Thursday night at home against Minnesota. Rawls broke his ankle and tore ligaments Dec. 13 at Baltimore. He’s been getting first-team snaps in practice this week, and appears close to playing in one of the final two preseason games, Aug. 15 against Dallas or Sept. 1 at Oakland

Is Graham close to getting back to team drills in practice?

"Yes, he is,” Carroll said. “There are some evaluations to be done going into next week. But I don’t have any expectation for that. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Graham coming off the PUP list means he can’t be on PUP to begin the regular season, if the Seahawks determine he isn’t yet ready to play. If Graham is not ready by Week 1, the team’s options are to: 1.) Carry him on the 53-man roster though he would be unavailable -- essentially leaving Seattle with 52 available players; or 2.) place him on injured reserve with the option to designate him for to return to practice six weeks into the regular season and then play in a game two weeks after that.

This past spring the league voted to create a new bylaw allowing to teams to select one player to return to practice among their players already on injured reserve, provided that designated player has spent at least six weeks on injured reserve. That player would then be able to return to the active roster and play in a game two weeks later.

It used to be a team had to designate a player to return off IR at the time that player first when on injured reserve. The new rule gives teams more flexibility.

So if the Seahawks think by early September Graham won’t be ready to play for about six more weeks, that IR with the designation to return could be an option. If they believe he could return sooner than six weeks, they could carry him on the active roster though he’d be unavailable for a while.

Or, Graham will prove ready to play the opener Sept. 11 against Miami.

Right now, that is an iffy proposition.

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