RENTON — Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald understands the importance of the final exhibition game and how it factors into earning a spot on an NFL roster.
Entering his fifth season, McDonald will start at nose tackle for the Seattle Seahawks against Oakland on Thursday night (7 p.m., Channel 13) in place of Brandon Mebane, who’s nursing a groin injury.
The former University of Memphis player has been a steady contributor as part of Seattle’s regular rotation at defensive tackle since arriving as part of a trade with Cincinnati for cornerback Kelly Jennings in August 2011.
“He’s a really football-smart guy,” Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “You can tell with the notes he takes and the work that he puts in that he’s earned so much respect from his teammates, and us as coaches too, by the way he works at it.”
McDonald said he will be focused on one thing against the Raiders – doing his job to the best of his ability.
“I’m just a part of this team,” McDonald said. “I’m just a small part of what makes it run. And whatever contributions I bring, we all as individuals come together, and try to get it together for the team.”
For cornerback Ron Parker, Thursday’s game is one last opportunity to show Seattle’s coaching staff that he’s healthy.
At the beginning of training camp, Parker had worked himself into the rotation at cornerback with the second unit. But a nagging hamstring injury kept him on the sideline for the entire exhibition season until this week.
“It’s real frustrating because I was playing at a high level and really had got my confidence up to the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Parker said. “So it was just frustrating just sitting back. But I came back with the same confidence, and I’m ready to rock.”
One of fastest players on Seattle’s roster, Parker could make it tough for the team to decide on cuts at cornerback if he plays well – particularly with veteran players such as Antoine Winfield fighting for playing time in the talented secondary.
The Seahawks could save $1 million in salary cap space by releasing Winfield in favor of younger, inexpensive talent such as Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Parker.
“Thursday is probably the most important day of my life,” Parker said. “That’s how I feel. And that’s how I’m going to take it. I feel like it’s the most important thing coming up, so that’s what my mindset is for Thursday. I need to have a big day, and that’s the plan.”
After practice Wednesday, Seattle coach Pete Carroll discussed the tough decisions ahead, with the cutdown to the NFL regular-season limit of 53 required by 3 p.m. Saturday. The Seahawks may begin compiling an eight-man practice squad on Sunday.
This year’s cuts will be much more difficult than when Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived over three years ago.
“It’s a much different time for us,” Carroll said. “John was madly scouring everybody else’s list to fill up our roster at that time. We’re still doing that, and will compete like crazy at that. But it’s not going to apply nearly as much.
“We know guys on our team are going to go to other teams and play. We know that, and we’re proud of that. Sometimes you can’t tell. We have to make a decision now, and maybe that guy a month from now is a better player than the guy (you keep) – that’s how close it is in some situations. In some situations you just don’t want to let the guy go. And we have guys we just don’t want to cut, but we’re going to have to make those choices.”
OAKLAND (1-2) at SEATTLE (3-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks finish exhibition play by facing Oakland for the eighth consecutive year. Seattle is 8-3 all time against the Raiders in exhibition play. The Seahawks are riding an eight-game winning streak in exhibitions dating to 2011. They won last year’s exhibition matchup with the Raiders, 21-3, on Aug. 30 at CenturyLink Field.
What to watch: Ex-Seahawks quarterback Matt Flynn returns to Seattle, but he will not be playing. The right-handed Flynn has elbow tendinitis in his throwing arm, so Terrelle Pryor will start for the Raiders, and he has an opportunity to wrestle the starting QB job away from Flynn with a strong performance. … Seahawks offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable served as head coach of the Raiders from 2008-10. … Seahawks special-teams coordinator Brian Schneider worked in the same position for Oakland in 2007-08. … Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons played for Oakland in 2007, finishing with eight sacks. … Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is an Oakland native. … Offensive tackle Paul McQuistan played for the Raiders from 2006-08. … Oakland offensive tackle Khalif Barnes (2001-04) and fullback Marcel Reece (2006-07) are former University of Washington players. … Raiders cornerback Phillip Adams and offensive tackle Alex Barron were in Seattle’s training camp last year. … Oakland running back Taiwan Jones played at Eastern Washington (2008-10). … Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson is a native of Richland. He worked as an offensive assistant at Central Washington from 1990-93.