RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The good news for the Seattle Seahawks is that no one on their defence was suspended for the chaos that ensued at the conclusion of their trip to Jacksonville.
They still could be significantly undermanned heading into the most important game of the regular season to date.
The Seahawks might be down as many as five starters on defence from the start of the season going into Sunday’s NFC West showdown with the first-place Los Angeles Rams. Seattle has learned how to play without defensive end Cliff Avril, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor as all three have been out for more than a month.
But last Sunday’s loss at Jacksonville cost the Seahawks two of the more important remaining pieces. Linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) are both in question for the matchup with the Rams.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Wright is still going through concussion protocol, while Wagner wants to play but won’t test the injury until later in the week.
It’s a challenging scenario for Seattle to be facing going against the No. 2 scoring offence in the NFL.
“We’ve been under it before many times. This doesn’t seem that much different. We’re not taking it any different. Our approach isn’t any different. Next guy up and away we go,” Carroll said Wednesday. “The guys have to rally around those guys as they step in and that’s part of what you’re calling for. Everyone has to rally.”
It could have been far worse.
Seattle escaped potential major punishment against defensive linemen Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson for their actions at the conclusion of last Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. Richardson and Jefferson were ejected, while Bennett’s personal foul instigated the mayhem. The trio will likely be receiving large fines from the league but avoiding suspensions was a major boost for the Seahawks.
Jefferson’s actions drew the most attention because of his brief attempt to climb a wall to go after fans who had thrown bottles at him as he was leaving the field following his ejection. Jefferson said Wednesday that the bottles plus a specific comment he heard about his mother set him off.
“It was even worse because my kids have seen it, my wife has seen it,” Jefferson said. “She was upset about it and I felt even more upset for them because they had to watch that.”
Jefferson met with Carroll on Monday and said it was difficult to watch the video of the incident.
“We talked some about it,” Jefferson said. “It’s just one of them things. It’s unfortunate. You know you wish it didn’t get that far, wish it didn’t happen. But it’s one of those things that happened. We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on from it, getting ready for LA.”
While the Seahawks will have three key defensive linemen, the uncertainty surrounding Wagner is significant.
Wagner was in contention for defensive player of the year despite playing through a nagging hamstring injury that was aggravated in the first minute of the second half against Jacksonville.
Almost immediately after Wagner left the field, the Seahawks became vulnerable. Seattle trailed 3-0 when Wagner left; it allowed 27 points over the final 29 minutes with Wagner on the sideline. While there were a number of breakdowns that led to the scoring outburst by the Jags, the loss of Wagner was substantial.
Wagner has talked extensively in recent weeks about the importance of communication with Chancellor and Sherman out and trying to making sure their replacements are in the correct coverages. There appeared to be more breakdowns against the Jags after Wagner went out.
Veteran Michael Wilhoite would step in if Wagner isn’t available.
“He’s very upbeat and very positive,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He’s planning on getting ready. That’s what he’s doing.”
NOTES: Carroll is hopeful DE Dion Jordan (neck) will be back this week, but DT Nazair Jones (ankle) is still in “rehab mode,” and likely will be out again. … RB Mike Davis (ribs) is expected to play after leaving Sunday’s game early. Davis had 66 yards rushing prior to his injury.
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Tim Booth, The Associated Press