By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – The good news: guard James Carpenter walked off the practice field on his own.
The bad news: He was limping while he did so.
Carpenter left the field midway through Monday’s practice, walking alongside a trainer. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. This is training camp, after all, and players get bumped and bruised all the time, but this is also Carpenter, which makes it something worth monitoring.
Carpenter has finished each of his first two NFL seasons on injured reserve, suffering a serious knee injury midway through 2011. He returned last year, playing in seven games before experiencing problems with that knee again. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4.
He is the strongest of Seattle’s offensive lineman, but was limited this offseason after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out his knee. He was ready to practice from the first day of training camp and though he has been working with the second unit behind Paul McQuistan at left guard, the team also had high hopes for Carpenter.
One missed practice doesn’t mean the end of that, but it does raise the possibility that Carpenter is still dealing with discomfort in that surgically repaired knee.
Play with force, Luke
Camp Carroll: Day 12 (Practice 10)
|Practice:||10 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.|
|DNP:||DT Jesse Williams (knee), DE Cliff Avril (hamstring), CB Ron Parker (hamstring), C Max Unger (undisclosed), TE Darren Fells (hamstring), LB Kyle Knox (undisclosed), WR Stephen Williams (head/neck), RB Robert Turbin (foot), WR Bryan Walters (undisclosed), DE Bruce Irvin (undisclosed), DL Michael Bennett (undisclosed), WR Early Doucet (undisclosed).||PUP:||WR Percy Harvin, TE Zach Miller, DE Chris Clemons, DL Greg Scruggs, CB Tharold Simon.||Non-football Injury list:||LB Korey Toomer.||Interviews:||Carroll | Unger | Tate | Thurmond|
Tight end Zach Miller’s absence from practice so far has created an opportunity for rookie Luke Willson, which is good for his development.
Miller’s absence has also taken away an example, though, which is a negative because Willson doesn’t get that opportunity to watch Seattle’s starter work ahead of him.
“It kind of works both ways,” Willson said of the impact of Miller not practicing.
Tight end is the biggest bare spot on this roster, which means that Willson has one of the biggest opportunities to move up the pecking order. He was a fifth-round pick out of Rice, someone who was a backup last year and is suddenly getting extensive time with the first-unit offense after injuries to Miller and Anthony McCoy.
While McCoy is out for the season after suffering an Achilles injury this offseason, Miller is going to be back from a sore foot perhaps as soon as the third exhibition game. The question is whether Willson can land a significant role in the meantime.
Can he be the second tight end in this offense? Seattle’s coach and quarterback sure seem to think so.
“Luke looks great,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “He’s doing a great job at understanding where he needs to be at the right time.”
Coach Pete Carroll has pointed to Willson’s ability to learn the playbook as a positive sign. Now, it’s a matter of Willson improving his run blocking and finishing off his routes, two things he pointed to as areas where he needs to improve.
“In the running game, staying low,” Willson said, “and in the passing game coming out of breaks a little quicker.”
• DE Cliff Avril has not returned to practice from a sore hamstring and is not expected to play in Thursday’s preseason opener in San Diego.
• DT Jesse Williams sat out practice Monday as the team continues to monitor the workload given his sore knee.