RENTON — The Seahawks’ defensive line received some much-needed good news Friday, as DT/DE Michael Bennett returned to practice after sitting out Thursday’s session with a previously undisclosed toe injury. Bennett, who leads the Seahawks with three sacks, will play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium (10 a.m., CBS).
“We took care of him,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday. “He’s fine.”
The Seahawks rank 27th with seven sacks, but their run defense is solid. Seattle’s opponents are averaging 85.5 yards per game on the ground (sixth in NFL).
Both facets of the defense will be tested by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, a mobile passer who appears fully recovered from an offseason ankle surgery and a hairline fracture in his ribs sustained in the preseason. The latter forced him to miss the season opener.
“He’s shown so much, so early. He’s a remarkable talent,” Carroll said. “I think he continues to get better. He’s physically fit now. He was hurt a little bit earlier in the season. But now he’s ready to go. He can do all of the stuff that a quarterback could ever do.
“He poses a tremendous issue for us.”
There are issues elsewhere. The Seahawks will be without FB Derrick Coleman for at least the next six weeks. Coleman underwent surgery after breaking his foot during warmups prior to last week’s game in St. Louis. For the second consecutive week, backup RB Robert Turbin will start in his place, Carroll confirmed.
C Max Unger (foot) is out again this week, as are TE Zach Miller (ankle) MLB Bobby Wagner (toe), CB Byron Maxwell (calf) and DT Jordan Hill (ankle). Carroll hinted Maxwell and Unger have a chance of returning to practice next week. CB Tharold Simon will start Sunday in place of Maxwell.
Meanwhile, kickoff return/punt returner Bryan Walters will miss Sunday’s game after sustaining a concussion earlier this week in practice.
“He fell running a route and got a little whiplash on the turf and hit his head,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately he didn’t clear (concussion protocol) right away. We got to take care of him.”
That means WR Doug Baldwin will likely handle kickoff returns, while rookie WR Paul Richardson will return punts.
Carroll played coy when asked to clarify who would fill which role.
“(Baldwin’s) involved with the returns. All of our guys that have been in the backup positions are ready to go,” he said.
Lurking behind a scrum of reporters, Baldwin responded before sneaking out of the VMAC’s indoor practice facility.
Aiming a barb at Carroll, he yelled, smiling, “Stop lying!”