The bad is bad enough for the Seahawks: Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett will not play against Drew Brees and New Orleans’ prolific passing game.
The worse: Bennett is facing the possibility of knee surgery.
Seattle’s most dominant defensive lineman, a mainstay in offenses’ backfields the past three seasons, will not play Sunday against the Saints nor for the foreseeable future. Bennett will be further evaluated for cartilage damage in his right knee with surgery a “possibility,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday.
Bennett had an MRI this week that showed the cartilage issue.
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“Yeah, Michael is going to be out. We’re going to check him on Monday and see if there’s something we can do for him,” Carroll said following the Seahawks’ last practice before boarding their flight to Louisiana. “His knee bothered him after the game coming out, so we’re going to take care of him. We’ll look into seeing what’s necessary next week.”
Asked if an operation was likely, Carroll said, “there’s a possibility, yeah.”
A surgery, even if arthroscopic and relatively less intrusive, would likely keep Bennett out for the Nov. 6 home game against Buffalo and the Nov. 13 game at Tom Brady and New England, if not beyond.
For now, Frank Clark will be minus his speedy inside pass-rush partner in Seattle’s nickel defenses. The Seahawks are likely to be in that for most of Sunday’s game against the Saints. Cassius Marsh has been on the outside on passing downs as a rush end opposite Cliff Avril. Marsh may now get some time inside next to Clark, in Bennett’s usual spot, against Brees. The Saints star usually gets the ball out in 1.9 seconds or less, and because of Brees’ quick throwing New Orleans is second in the NFL in fewest sacks per game.
“What’s Plan B? We don’t have a Plan B,” Carroll said of Sunday’s pass rush. “We have a Plan A. We’re going to rush the heck out of him the best we can.”
Four-time Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor will also miss the Saints game. It’s his third consecutive game out with a pulled groin, an injury Carroll characterized as “substantial.”
“After the Week 1 in his rehab it didn’t improve,” the coach said. “He pushed it a little bit — we pushed him a little bit, however you want to look at it — and it just didn’t turn the corner for him. So we’re just going to have to wait it out. What it’s turned out to be is a substantial groin pull. More than we had hoped.”
This is the six time in 10 games, dating to last season, that Chancellor has sat out due to injury.
Kelcie McCray will start again for him.
Russell Wilson is OK and not even listed on Seattle’s injury report. He’d been limited in practice this week with a pectoral injury on his right throwing side he got while getting sacked by Arizona’s Chandler Jones last weekend. It was the first time in his five-year career he had been anything short of a full participant in a practice.
Wilson will start for the 81st consecutive time to begin his career on Sunday.
“He got hit in the pec area. It just has been sore,” Carroll said. “We didn’t want to throw through it and ignore it, so we took care of it during the week. He was able to do everything and running around and all that. This is, again ... he continues to improve in his mobility.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes off a little bit more than he has. He’s ready to do that.”
Asked if Wilson threw without limitation in practice at all this week, the coach said “We kept it under control. He threw throughout the practice. We held him back. He didn’t throw anything full speed that he didn’t need to. There were a few balls during the week. Not many.”
Bennett played 81 snaps last Sunday night in the marathon overtime tie at Arizona. It was the first time in six games this season he didn’t sack or hit the quarterback. On Thursday he acknowledged his knee bothered him in the Cardinals game.
“That was very difficult. I think Brett Favre said it best, when you can play really great when you’re injured, that’s when you become a great player,” Bennett said Thursday.
“That’s one of the things where you just have to — of course it was painful — but you have to be able to put your mind to the side and kind of just keep going in, focus on your teammates and focus on the task at hand and try to win the game.”
Bennett has been playing with a sore knee since at least the win over Atlanta on Oct. 16. He had a monster game that day, with five hits on quarterback Matt Ryan and constant pressure. He was a big reason Seattle led the Falcons and their No. 1 offense, 17-3, into the third quarter.
“It might be related,” Carroll said of Bennett’s current issue and the injury against Atlanta. “It popped up during the game (in Arizona) so we’re not sure. Nothing showed after the game after Atlanta. And there was a little something we found in the MRI (this week) so we’re going to make sure we know what we’re doing and take good care of him, so something happened during the week it looks like.
“He came out of the game feeling like there was something going on. He had a little swelling on Monday and Tuesday after the game and so that’s when we took a look at it and wanted to make sure we knew what was going on.”
SOWELL’S MAGICAL RECOVERY?
The Seahawks are going to test Bradley Sowell’s sprained right knee during pregame drills Sunday at the Superdome to see if the starting left tackle can play on the injury he got last weekend late in regulation at Arizona.
It’s a wizard-like recovery for Sowell, one that has surprised the team and its coach that first had him listed as out for the Saints game Friday, then amended that the following practice to questionable.
“There’s a chance he’ll dress for this game,” Carroll said.
If Sowell can’t play, undrafted rookie college basketball player George Fant likely will be the left tackle. He’s last started a football game for the Lincoln Heights Tigers in Cincinnati. That’s the Cincinnati Pee Wee league.
“George finished the game last week, and that’s a likely move for us to go with,” Carroll said.
He also mentioned choices such as backup guard and tackle J’Marcus Webb), “and we’re not ruling out Brad at this point.
“I don’t know how he did that that fast, but he did, and he looks like he’s ready to compete for it. And he’ll try to show us on game day that he’s ready to go.”
WR Tyler Lockett has a new injury just as he was getting over his knee sprain last month. Carroll said the Pro Bowl kick returner got hit in the thigh during practice this week. Though Lockett is questionable, Carroll said “He finished the week fine. He did well had a really nice day (Friday) so he’s ready to go.” … Thomas Rawls isn’t coming back next week, as the coach had originally hoped. The lead back this week began testing by running on the cracked fibula he got Sept. 18 in the loss to the Rams. Carroll on Friday said Rawls is still “a couple weeks away” from playing.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle