For four years, Russell Wilson’s elusiveness, creativity and indestructibility masked any and all issues on the Seahawks’ offensive line.
That mask is off now.
Seattle’s $87.6 million franchise quarterback has his third injury of the six-game-old season. The team listed him as limited in practice Wednesday with a pectoral muscle injury of unknown severity on his right, throwing side.
It’s the first time in Wilson’s five NFL seasons the Seahawks listed Wilson as anything other than a full participant on a daily practice report.
He wasn’t limited in any practice following the sprained right ankle he got getting stepped on by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh on a sack in the opener Sept. 11. He wasn’t limited after the sprained medial collateral ligament he got in his left knee Sept. 25 while getting sacked by San Francisco’s Eli Harold from behind. That injury likely would not have happened had Wilson not had the sprained ankle that kept him from sprinting away from trouble as he had over his first four, injury-free seasons.
Sunday night, Arizona’s Chandler Jones came around Wilson’s back side to his throwing shoulder and hit him in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s overtime tie. Jones knocked the ball from Wilson’s right hand with such force the resulting fumble bounded 20 yards before Seahawks guard Mark Glowinski covered it at the 1-yard line. That ruined another Seattle drive.
That might, by location and severity of the hit, be the play on which Wilson got his latest injury.
Coach Pete Carroll is the team’s lone source of public information on injuries. He did not mention Wilson’s latest one when he talked before practice. He is unavailable to the media until after practice Friday.
This pectoral injury likely won’t keep Wilson out of Sunday’s game at New Orleans. After all, he has yet to miss a practice, let alone a game, in his career.
But it does keep the spotlight on the source of Wilson’s health issues: the shaky offensive line.
This is not the best time for an undrafted rookie college basketball player to be starting as Wilson’s most important, backside protector.
Yet that is what George Fant is poised to become Sunday against the Saints. The last time he started a football game? For the Lincoln Heights Tigers in his hometown of Cincinnati. That was a Pee Wee-league team.
Fant was a power forward at Western Kentucky. He didn’t go out for football until 14 months ago, and after that barely played. He appeared in a few WKU games on special teams. He practiced some at tight end.
“I went to learn,” he said.
The Seahawks had zero game tape of him blocking anyone. They signed him in May based off a Pro Day workout in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Fant wowed Trent Kirchner, Seattle’s co-director of player personnel, with his athleticism and his 6-foot-5, 296-pound frame. Fant worked out at linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and tackle.
But starting an NFL game five months later, at the line’s most important spot?
Asked if he could have ever imagined this in his wildest dreams, Fant looked up from his locker seat, shook his head with a bushy goatee at the bottom and said, “Nah.
Neither could the Seahawks.
“Yeah, he has surprised us from the first day that he stood on the practice field,” Carroll said. “He just physically understood how to do the stuff that we were asking him to do. There was no way we could have anticipated he would jump to it as quickly as he did. We’re really excited about him. He’s way ahead of the curve in that regard.
“Very unusual transition that he’s made.”
Starting left tackle Bradley Sowell missed practice from the sprained medial collateral ligament he got in his knee at Arizona. Sowell surprised the team by asking to practice Wednesday because he felt no pain, but the team decided to limit him to getting into a stance and the exercise bike during practice.
“He’s made a really quick recovery,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “We’ll see (Thursday) where he’s at.”
Cable and Carroll did not rule out Sowell from playing in New Orleans. But Carroll said Fant, who replaced Sowell for the final half of the fourth quarter and all of overtime in Arizona, is “ready to play.”
The Seahawks appear to be choosing Fant over rookie third-round draft choice Rees Odhiambo, who has yet to appear in an NFL game, or veteran J’Marcus Webb. Webb is the backup guard and tackle who started 32 consecutive games at left tackle in 2011 and ’12 for Chicago.
Fant and former Western Kentucky basketball star Chastity Gooch had their first son, Jayden, shortly before that March tryout. So, yes, his unexpected, $450,000 Seattle salary this year is coming in mighty handy.
“He’s doing something like you want in life. He’s got a family, and he’s got children,” Cable said. “So he’s got an opportunity, and he’s just grabbed the opportunity and doing the best he can with it.
“What made us gravitate to him? Long-armed athlete — and that’s really about it, because there was no background.”
Fant kept saying Wednesday, “I’m just blessed. Grateful for the opportunity.
“How far have I come? I’d say a lot.
“I mean, I’ve never played offensive line before.”
SHERMAN: “I AM A WIZARD”
Richard Sherman dressed like Harry Potter during his weekly press conference.
It was an infinitely better look than how he was three days earlier, in the locker room in Arizona shaking and unable to walk after playing all 95 defensive snaps in the Seahawks’ 6-6 overtime tie.
“I am a wizard,” the three-time All-Pro cornerback said over the Harry Potter theme music playing from his phone at the podium.
“It is Halloween. My son (age 2) told me he wanted to me to wear something. So, it’s happening.”
Indeed, it was. He was wearing black-rimmed eyeglasses atop his head; a black, Harry Potter Gryffindor robe outlined in maroon and gold; a matching neck tie over a white dress shirt — even a pointer stick.
Sherman was asked which was more difficult: Playing five full quarters and 95 plays against the Cardinals or quidditch?
“Five quarters of football is tough,” Sherman said. “But quidditch, the beaters, the chasers, trying to find the ‘Golden Snitch,’ things like that? That’s tough.
“When you are a wizard, like we are, sometimes you have to show it to the muggles out there in the world. Earl Thomas does some magical things. Michael Bennett is ‘Black Santa’ — but he’s also a wizard.”
Sherman, though, is not actually a wizard. At least he wasn’t Sunday night. He gave up a catch and 40-yard gain on a missed tackle of Arizona wide receiver J.J. Nelson in overtime. Sherman’s secondary mate Kelcie McCray bailed him out with a tackle from behind at the 5-yard line. Otherwise Seattle would have lost on a Nelson touchdown Sherman surrendered because his knee buckled.
He said his legs and his body just shut down on that play.
Sherman needed help from teammate Bobby Wagner — the linebacker was also limping — to get across the locker room last weekend following the game. Sherman sat silently at his locker slumped and shaking.
“They said I had fever, the shivers, some other stuff,” he said. “It was bad. Bad stuff.”
He said at one point he heard medical personnel talking about “paramedics and stretchers” to get him out of the stadium. He wasn’t having any of that.
The Seahawks re-signed veteran 280-pound fullback Will Tukuafu for the third time in a little more than three months to try to help the ailing running game. Seattle released C.J. Spiller. The 29-year-old running back caught a touchdown pass in his first game Oct. 2, days after signing, then did next to nothing after that. … TE Jimmy Graham, Bennett, Sherman and Wagner all rested, instead of practicing, following the Arizona marathon three days earlier. … Strong safety Kam Chancellor missed practice and remains iffy to return to play Sunday in New Orleans. He’s missed the past two games with a pulled groin. McCray has started.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle