RENTON – To say that Tharold Simon’s NFL career got off on the wrong foot would only be halfway accurate.
It was actually injuries to both of the cornerback’s feet that wiped out his rookie season with Seattle, ending it before the Seahawks had a chance to see much of anything out of their fifth-round pick.
The Seahawks have been impressed with Tharold Simon’s ability to cover the deep ball this offseason. (Rod Mar/Seahawks)
But having just returned to the practice field last month following the second of two surgeries, Simon was one of the standouts during organized team activities (OTAs) and Seattle’s recently-completed minicamp.
“I’m really excited about this guy now,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He had a fantastic offseason for us.”
Simon didn’t have much of an offseason last year. He had played with a stress fracture in his right foot during his final season at Louisiana State and then re-aggravated it in one of his first few practices with the Seahawks. He began last season on the physically unable to perform list, and as he was making his way back from that injury he broke a bone in his other foot.
“He didn’t get to practice at all to speak of last year,” Carroll said, “so really this is the first time we’ve seen him.”
And the Seahawks like what they’ve seen, particularly how fast Simon has looked when covering deeper passes. That’s not always a given. At least not with cornerbacks of his size.
“He’s exactly the kind of guy we like,” Carroll said.
Which is to say that he fits Seattle’s specs at the position, standing 6 feet 3 and weighing 202 pounds. But for all the success Seattle has had with Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and now Byron Maxwell, there’s a reason why the rest of the league has yet to be able to replicate it.
It’s one thing to find a big cornerback. It’s another to find one that has the top-end speed to keep up with NFL wide receivers. That’s been among the most promising signs from Simon, according to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“When you stand next to him you see how tall Tharold is,” Quinn said. “I wasn’t quite sure what his speed was until we got the chance to see him out here and run with some of the guys on offense who can really go. To see him staying on top and playing, you can feel his speed.”
That’s only one part of a cornerback’s job description, of course. Another is making a play on the ball when it arrives, and Simon made at least two during OTAs and minicamp that were both magnificent and similar in how he jumped and reached cleanly over a receiver’s back. He intercepted one of them but didn’t catch the other.
“I had a lot of dropped picks when I was playing at LSU,” he said. “Probably should have had about 10 picks my sophomore year, and that just stuck, it still sticks with me to this day. If the ball’s in the air, you’ve got to go get it.”
Simon will have to grab hold of his opportunity, whenever it might come. As of now, his likely role this season is as a backup and perhaps a special-teams contributor, but he doesn’t need to look far to see how quickly openings can arise in the NFL. Sherman began his rookie season buried on the depth chart but became a starter when two players ahead of him – Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond – were both lost to injuries in the span of two games. Maxwell stepped into the starting lineup for Browner late last year and earned the right to stay there by picking off four passes over the final four regular-season games.
Simon’s chance could come at any moment. In the meantime, his second season has gotten off on the right foot unlike his first.
“There’s a long ways to go here but he’s had a great [offseason],” Carroll said, “and we’re really exited about him getting in the mix and competing.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.