LEAVING JFK AIRPORT AND NEW YORK C.J. Spiller’s timing is exquisite.
The veteran running back’s arrival not only onto the roster but into the offense and the end zone Sunday afternoon came on the same day Seattle general manager John Schneider told the team’s flagship radio station lead back Thomas Rawls will miss another four weeks with a cracked fibula.
Plus, rookie C.J. Prosise -- whom Schneider draft in the third round in May to do the job Spiller did against the Jets Sunday -- missed his third consecutive game with a cracked bone in his hand.
That means Spiller, a Pro Bowl back with Buffalo in 2012, is going to be far more prominent into November than he or the Seahawks could have imagined just five days ago.
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Schneider told Seattle’s 710-AM radio on Sunday before the Seahawks’ 27-17 win at New York Rawls will miss “another month, or approximately about a month.” That could have Rawls, the NFL’s leader in yards per carry as a splash rookie last season, out until at least the Week 8 game against the Bills in Seattle on Nov. 9.
Seven days before Sunday, Spiller was on his couch in South Carolina, channel surfing through NFL games on a Sunday afternoon and hanging out with his 10-year-old daughter Shania.
“Like Shania Twain,” he said with a proud grin after I asked him how to spell his girl’s name.
This Sunday, Spiller found himself in an end zone of the Meadowlands. He was holding the ball he caught on a pass from Russell Wilson for the first touchdown that sent the Seahawks off to 27-17 win over the Jets and a 3-1 record during this week’s bye.
Spiller only knew a portion of the playbook and none of the pass protections after just two full practices Thursday and Friday; he signed a minimum contract for the rest of this season on Wednesday. One of them was Spiller spilling out of the backfield in the middle of the Jets’ zone defense in the red zone, open space past linebacker David Harris. Spiller had the option to go inside Harris or outside him to the left flat. He went middle. Wilson’s pass in the second quarter found Spiller 2 yards deep in the end zone, before Jets linebacker Darron Lee could get to him.
Left guard Mark Glowinski was the first Seahawk to greet Spiller. The big lineman lifted up the back by the chest like he’d known him for years, not days.
“Just something we worked on the two days that I was here,” Spiller said. “We talked about some good one-on-one matchups, and we got the look that we were looking for. It was up to me to win that one-on-one battle. And I could see Russ’ eyes, and we connected. A great play at the right moment.
The right moment in more ways than one.
Schneider told 710 AM before Sunday’s game the Seahawks had been in contact with Spiller’s agent once he was released by the Saints Sept. 13. He had tryouts since with Green Bay and the Jets.
“I’ve talked to you guys before about how we’re always in every deal. So when he was released, we called, talked to his agent. He was going to go to Green Bay and then New York,” Schneider said, calling Spiller a “legitimate third-down back.”
“He committed to those teams first and then he was going to come visit us. For one reason or another, he did not sign with those teams. So we were able to talk to him on Tuesday night (the day Spiller visited the Jets) and get him in on Wednesday, got him physicalled. He met with the staff and everything. And we just decided to just go for it instead of waiting until Monday.
“We just did it and he had a great attitude this week. He’s a pro. We’re excited to see what he does (Sunday).”
They are even more excited now.
“I don’t know a whole lot more than we knew going in, but he was extremely impressive to us in practice, in preparation through the week, the fact that he can play in just two days, he showed up Thursday, was a great statement,” said coach Pete Carroll, who tried to recruit Spiller to USC a decade ago before he chose Clemson.
“We’ll just keep moving. It’s great to have him and he’s a real dimension. He’s a very, very fast, very difficult guy to tackle, to stay with. He runs great routes and he’s got great hands, too. The fact that he’s smart and all that, that’s the kind of guy we like to add this time of year. We’re very fortunate to get him.
Schneider called Spiller a “legitimate third-down back.”
“We drafted C.J. Prosise to do that,” Schneider said on 710 AM. “He hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so we’re still trying to get him into that role. But C.J. Spiller is also a guy that’s carried the ball a bunch. So we just feel like once we get Prosise back too and then Thomas is going to be out another month, or approximately about a month, so we’re just excited to get those guys all in the mix.”