Browner’s suspension leaves the Seahawks’ secondary green and tender for Sunday’s arrival of Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps the best receiver in the NFL.
After a season of relatively good health and roster stability, broken glass, paint chips and bent bumpers were visible Wednesday in the Seahawks garage.
The biggest dent was starting CB Brandon Browner, who gave up his fight against a positive drug test, reportedly for a banned stimulant, and will be suspended by the NFL for the final four games of the regular season. He could be back in time if the Seahawks make the playoffs.
His replacement, third-year CB Walter Thurmond, has not started since Game 6 in 2011, when he broke his leg. He played for the first time in the nickel defense Sunday in Chicago.
“It felt good,” Thurmond said of Sunday. “It was like I hadn’t missed a step from where I was last year.”
He better say that. Because Sunday he going to need all the steps he can find. Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Fitzgerald is visiting, and being a step behind Fitzgerald is a pitiful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
At least Thurmond actually has some experience covering Fitzgerald.
“Looking forward to the test,” he said “Not my first rodeo.”
Consider Jeremy Lane, who is replacing Thurmond in the nickel defense. He’s never played cornerback in an NFL game. He’s from the less-than-legendary Northwestern State of Louisiana who has played special teams for the Seahawks in his rookie year. He’s the guy who downs Jon Ryan’s punts on the millimeter line.
“I think Larry’s the best receiver in the game,” Lane said, confirming at least his visual acuity. “Runs great routes and doesn’t give you the same thing every time.
“We need to contain him. Hopefully when he comes my way, I’ll shut him down and he’ll stop picking on me.”
Well, Jeremy, best wishes on that. At $13.25 million, he is the NFL’s highest paid receiver because he eats guys like you for an appetizer.
But that’s what the Seahawks have. Browner has been busted and veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant is hurt, still rehabbing a hamstring, and wasn’t all that good when healthy. Not only that, but second-year linebacker Malcolm Smith probably will start again in place of veteran Leroy Hill, who sat out the Bears game with injury.
It’s easy for a Seahawks fans to look at 4-8 Arizona’s eight straight losses and believe in a limp-along victory. But the Cardinals did beat the Seahawks in the season opener 20-16 and are finally getting back a veteran quarterback, John Skelton, who takes over for the near-helpless third-stringer, Ryan Lindley (10 of 31 passing against the New York Jets Sunday). And Fitzgerald is pretty much worth 10 points just standing there.
Coach Pete Carroll put up the predictable brave face, but there was a little zig-zag quality to the usual smile.
“You’re going to see Walter Thurmond stepping up and we’re excited to have him,” he said. “I’ve thought all along that we’re very fortunate to have Walter with some background of having been a starter for us. He’s an excellent athlete and he’s played very well this past week.
“Jeremy Lane will get the first shot in helping us in extra corner situation, This is his first real action on defense, but he’s as ready as a young guy can get. It’s better than this happening in the first week of the season. He’s had all these weeks with us.”
Not years . . . weeks. Carroll’s choices, experience-wise, are minimal. The Seahawks have in the defensive backfield Byron Maxwell, a second-year guy from Clemson, DeShawn Shead, a rookie from Portland State moved up Wednesday from the practice squad, and they hired Wednesday a guy off the Carolina practice squad, Ron Parker from Newberry College.
So, yes, Brandon Browner, everyone likes you, but you did a dumb thing, and the NFL’s flawed procedure did no one any favors. Carroll, however, remained on evasive maneuvers regarding the failed drug test.
“I’m still not commenting about it, but I’m disappointed that we lose anybody whether it’s by injury or whatever,” he said. “These guys work so hard to be here. You come to rely on guys, so when you lose guys it’s always disappointing. Really, the focus for us goes right to the guys that are stepping up.”
One slight bit of relief for the Seahawks is that the potential punishments for Browner and his alleged fellow miscreant, cornerback Richard Sherman, are no longer joined. Sherman reportedly has an appeal hearing date Dec. 14, meaning he can play against Arizona and the Dec. 16 game vs. Buffalo in Toronto. If his appeal is denied, he’ll miss the Dec. 23 game with San Francisco and the Dec. 30 game against St. Louis, plus the next two games, be they postseason or the 2013 regular season.
Whether this was coincidence or due to backroom politicking by the Seahawks isn’t known. What’s more obvious is that Browner is 6-4, 221, Fitzgerald is 6-3, 225, Thurmond is 5-11, 190 and Lane is 6-0 and 180.
It’s true that size isn’t everything, as Seahawks QB Russell Wilson readily attests. But it was something the Seahawks didn’t have to worry about. Now they do, and they are a little distracted — at least judging by Carroll’s misspeak opening his weekly presser.
Referring to another casualty, the season-ending knee injury to their starting left guard, the coach said, “We put James Carpenter down. “For a moment, we veterans of the horse tracks thought the injury report was a little more serious than usual.
But in fact, he will return in 2013, so far as anyone knows. As the Seahawks casualty list grows, however, it is wise to assume nothing.
ANOTHER WILSON BENCHMARK — From NFL. com: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has thrown a game-winning TD pass in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime three times this season, the most ever by a rookie since at least the 1970 merger. With 11 TDs and no interceptions in Seattle, Wilson has the NFL’s highest passer rating (122.0) at home this season. He is on pace for the third-best single-season passer rating at home in NFL history, which would place him behind Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, but in front of Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Steve Young and John Elway in the record books.