RENTON The Seahawks will apparently be getting healthier for their NFC West test on Sunday night.
Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett’s injury knee appears fine with no structural damage, so the Seahawks expect him to play Sunday at Arizona.
Kam Chancellor’s groin strain is also improved to the point Seattle expects its four-time Pro Bowl safety to play against the division-rival Cardinals.
Frank Clark should be “rarin’ to go” for this weekend after sitting out Sunday’s win over Atlanta, along with Chancellor. Fellow defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson will also return to play this weekend, from a broken hand.
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But tight end Luke Willson’s outlook is not as positive. He may need knee surgery.
That was coach Pete Carroll’s health report on Monday, in the aftermath of Seattle improving to 4-1 with the 26-24 rally past the Falcons.
Bennett injured his right knee when Atlanta offensive tackle Jake Matthews cut blocked him -- fired off the ball into Bennett’s knees with his helmet and shoulder pads -- during the third quarter Sunday. An enraged Bennett limped off the field and into the locker room. He later returned to the field but did not play over the final 1 1/2 quarters.
“He's doing pretty good. His tests came out clear,” Carroll said. “He just got banged on his knee.”
Asked if the major disruptor on what’s been a wholly disruptive defensive line so far this season will play at Arizona, the coach said: “I think so.”
Bennett said following Sunday’s game the injury wasn’t major and that he will play against the Cardinals.
Chancellor got what the coach termed a “slight groin pull” during practice on Thursday. That forced Kelcie McCray to start at strong safety on short notice against Atlanta, while Chancellor was on the sidelines in street clothes going nose to nose trying to control irate Richard Sherman during Sunday’s game (more on that later), among other offstage contributions.
“A mild groin, but we didn't think he'd be able to hold up throughout the course of the game,” Carroll said Monday. “He feels a lot better today. We'll go day by day and figure it out.”
Willson, the No. 2 tight end behind rampaging Jimmy Graham, had running back Christine Michael fall on the back of his legs in the end zone at the end of Michael’s 1-yard touchdown run Sunday that got Seattle within 24-23 of Atlanta.
“He's got some stuff. We're going to figure out what to do with him,” Carroll said. “A little cartilage damage in there, and stretched ligaments. Got to figure out what that's going to be like.”
Carroll said surgery was “possible” for Willson, who has six catches for 50 yards and also has been a part-time blocking back in five games this season. “We'll know more in the next couple of days.”
Carroll mentioned lead running back Thomas Rawls is likely to remain out for at least a couple more weeks. He cracked his fibula during the loss at Los Angeles Sept. 18 and hasn’t played since.
Asked when he’d like Rawls return time to be, Carroll said: "As soon as possible.”
Seattle has gone from No. 1 in the NFL in rushing this time last year -- with Rawls romping through his rookie season while now-retired Marshawn Lynch was out injured -- to 25th in rushing right now. The Seahawks are averaging 88.8 yards rushing per game.
But their passing has improved from 26th in league at this time last year to 11th, 263.8 yards per game.
The Seahawks are counting on Russell Wilson’s sprained knee and sprained ankle getting fully healed -- though a tough task as he continues playing on them -- plus Rawls’ return to be the boosts for that running game that has the offense far out of its usual balance so far this season.
“It's just going to take a couple more weeks before he's healed,” Carroll said of Rawls. “He'll feel much better; he's feeling a lot better. We just have to get to a point where for him it's safe."
SNAP COUNTS FROM SUNDAY
Here are the snap counts from Sunday’s game. They show how fully back tight end Jimmy Graham is from his ruptured patellar tendon in his knee Nov. 29, and how the Seahawks and Jeremy Lane were in nickel defense against passing-crazy Atlanta far less often than in previous games this season.