By Brady Henderson
Coach Pete Carroll says the Seahawks could reach out to veteran Antoine Winfield given the team’s sudden need for cornerbacks.
“That’s a possibility,” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Danny” on Monday, a day after news broke that cornerback Walter Thurmond is facing a four-game suspension for an alleged violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Released at the end of training camp, cornerback Antoine Winfield (21) is an option for Seattle with Brandon Browner injured and Walter Thurmond facing a suspension. (AP)
Thurmond, normally Seattle’s nickel cornerback, was filling in for the injured Brandon Browner on the outside, so his looming suspension will have the Seahawks searching for alternatives before their Monday night showdown with the Saints at CenturyLink Field.
Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane are next up on Seattle’s depth chart. Tharold Simon and DeShawn Shead are other in-house options, though neither are on Seattle’s 53-man roster. Lane is the only player among those four who has stared an NFL game, which makes Winfield a seemingly intriguing option even though he’s 36 years old and hasn’t played since he was released by Seattle at the end of training camp.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network – who broke the story about Thurmond’s suspension – reported via Twitter Monday that Winfield’s potential return has been discussed and that the cornerback is still physically in football shape.
Winfield’s signing in free agency was a coup for the Seahawks, who were adding a three-time Pro Bowl selection that would give them even more firepower in their star-studded secondary. His release was a reflection of Thurmond’s emergence and the depth the Seahawks had accumulated elsewhere in their defensive backfield.
Now, Browner is sidelined indefinitely because of a groin injury and Thurmond is facing a suspension as the Seahawks prepare to face the league’s second-ranked passing offense in a game that could help determine home-field advantage in the playoffs.
It’s another reminder of how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL, the Seahawks finding themselves in need of a cornerback and possibly reaching out to a player they once released only because they had so many capable alternatives.
“He’s a really good football player,” Carroll said. “With the news that we may have here going in to this game, that’s a possibility. We’ll figure that out when the time comes. But he’s a great kid. Really quality kid to bring in to your team at a time like this. He knows his way around. Everybody knows him and respects the heck out of him.”
Simon, a rookie who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, has the size and physicality that are distinguishing traits of Seattle’s cornerbacks. He’s on the Physically Unable to Perform List because of a foot injury but is expected to begin practicing week.
“That’s really important to us to see what he looks like and see how he does. We really don’t have any information on him as one of our guys. He’s just a big, tall, good-looking guy,” Carroll said of Simon, a fifth-round pick out of Louisiana State. “He looks like one of our guys, but he hasn’t practiced yet.”
Shead, meanwhile, is a former undrafted rookie out of Portland State who has the versatility to play cornerback and safety. He’s on Seattle’s practice squad, but Carroll indicated that he’s working his way toward a promotion to the active roster.
“DeShawn Shead has done a great job with us. He’s very close to being a part of this club, and on the regular roster and all that,” Carroll said. “He’s been practicing beautifully throughout the season so far, and we really trust him.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.