RENTON – Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman James Carpenter has gotten the green light to play in his first game since suffering a severe knee injury that cut short his rookie campaign last season.
Talking to reporters after practice on Friday, coach Pete Carroll said the team’s 2011 first-round pick will play Sunday at St. Louis after making it through practices this week healthy.
“That’s a great story for us, and for James,” Carroll said. “To see him back in action and ready to play, hopefully he’ll be able to get some play time and do some good things, too.”
Carroll would not say whether Carpenter will start, but he has been working at left guard with the starters this week, and the team’s starting left guard the first three games, Paul McQuistan, is capable of moving to right guard.
McQuistan is Seattle’s most versatile lineman. He started three games at right guard and four games at left tackle last season.
“He’s just been a real flexible guy,” Carroll said about McQuistan. “A lot of guys get tired going from one side to another. It hasn’t happened with him. His experience and time with Tom Cable before has helped, so he’s a valuable guy for us in that regard.”
Carpenter started at left guard in the first game of the 2011 season against San Francisco, then moved to right tackle for the next game. The former Alabama standout started eight games at right tackle before suffering a knee injury during pass blocking drills at a practice in December.
Seattle’s starting right guard last week, John Moffitt, did not practice this week because of a knee injury he suffered in Monday’s game against Green Bay. Moffitt is doubtful for Sunday’s game at St. Louis.
Carroll said the team once thought it might be eight weeks into the season before Carpenter could return to action, which could have meant he could be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin the regular season.
“I didn’t want to go on PUP,” he said. “I worked hard this whole offseason trying not to get on PUP. That was my motivation.
“I feel like I’m ready. Even though I was rehabbing, I was still watching film and doing technique and stuff, so I feel like I’m ready.”
Carroll said Carpenter looks strong and is in great shape, but the concern is how long Carpenter can play, because he’s not in game shape. Carroll also is concerned with the development of chemistry among the offensive linemen.
The Seahawks will use their third different starting offensive line combination in four games if Carpenter starts Sunday.
“I’m really concerned about that,” Carroll said. “ ‘Carp’ has not had a lot of experience anyway; his playing time has been limited just from the past. He hasn’t played a game all year. We have to find out how he does. We don’t know how he’s going to do.”
It’s a drill that youth football teams often execute at the end of practice – the offense going down the field in unison, 5 yards at a time, as the quarterback barks out signals to make sure no one goes offside.
That’s what Carroll had to resort to for Seattle’s offense this week, because that unit has totaled 13 pre-snap penalties this season – the second-most in the league.
Last year during training camp, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable made players run a lap every time they jumped offside in practice.
“It’s something extra there so we don’t do it in the game,” offensive tackle Breno Giacomini said. “As stupid and silly as it sounds, it works. Running didn’t work, so hopefully this will work.”
Russell Okung leads Seattle in false starts with four, followed by tight end Anthony McCoy with two.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has been called for delay of game four times.
The Seahawks are second in the league in accepted penalties with 32.
“We’re trying to get these guys to settle down and make sure that we’re sharp and clean and all that,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to play at our best until we get rid of that stuff.”
Cornerback Brandon Browner was fined $7,875 by the league for unnecessary roughness during the game against Green Bay. The NFL did not identify when the play occurred. Linebacker Leroy Hill (calf) did not practice, but Carroll said the plan is for the 30-year-old veteran to play on Sunday. Second-year pro Malcolm Smith is Hill’s firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks