The last time the Seahawks saw Cam Newton in person, Carolina’s star quarterback was parading around the perimeter of his home field 10 months ago.
Newton was celebrating his Panthers’ 31-24 victory over Seattle in January’s NFC divisional playoffs. It was his second win in six career regular-season and postseason games against the Seahawks.
A Seahawks fan dropped a “12th Man” flag from the first row into Newton’s face during his victory lap. A grinning Newton playfully crumpled the flag and threw it aside, delighting already thrilled Carolinians.
Richard Sherman remembers that.
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Asked if Newton crossed the line with that flag discarding, Seattle’s three-time All-Pro cornerback said Wednesday: “Yeah, he probably did.
“You know, I guess karma gets you. Doesn’t look like you are going to be in the playoffs this year.”
Newton’s injury-decimated Panthers are 4-7, three games out of the NFC South lead with five regular-season games remaining. That includes Sunday night’s game at CenturyLink Field against Sherman’s NFC West-leading Seahawks (7-3-1).
Newton was the league’s most valuable player last season while leading Carolina to Super Bowl 50. This season, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles are the only starting quarterbacks with lower ratings than Newton’s 81.4. Newton’s 55.8 completion percentage is ahead of only McCown and Colin Kaepernick among league starters. Newton is on pace to set career lows in both figures.
Newton is playing behind an offensive line that Panthers coach Ron Rivera described to reporters this week as “catastrophic.” The Panthers are on their third-string center off the practice squad. Only one of the five current starting blockers is in the spot in which he began the season.
Newton was 3 for 12 for 18 yards passing in the first half last weekend as Oakland opened a 24-7 lead before beating Carolina, 35-32.
Bennett, Britt and Thomas return
The Seahawks got their best injury news in weeks at practice Wednesday.
In addition to Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett, starting center Justin Britt (expected) and three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas (less so) returned and were full go during the indoor workout.
Thomas missed the first game of his career last weekend, and the Seahawks lost 14-5 at Tampa Bay. Thomas had started in 118 consecutive games — a Seahawks defensive-record 106 in the regular season — since Seattle drafted him in the first round in 2010. Steven Terrell made the first start of his career in Thomas’ free-safety spot.
“I’m sure we’ll be happy to have him back this week,” Sherman said of Thomas, “but Steve did a good job.”
Britt missed the Tampa Bay game with a sprained ankle, then watched the Buccaneers roll to six sacks of Russell Wilson. Rookie center Joey Hunt made his first career start.
The Seahawks practice report Wednesday was the first one without quarterback Russell Wilson’s name on it since Sept. 14, after he got a high-ankle sprain in the opening game against Miami.
Wilson has been on the practice report, while practicing, with the ankle sprain — plus a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and a pectoral strain on his right, throwing side.
All of that is officially in the past.
Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that DeShawn Shead was ahead of Thomas in recovering from his hamstring strain. On Wednesday, Carroll said Shead, the starting cornerback, and Thomas have to make it through the practice week before the team will be more certain that they will play against Carolina.
WR Paul Richardson did not practice Wednesday because of a hamstring issue. At Tampa Bay last weekend, he kept running down the field after getting knocked off his route down the hash mark, and Wilson threw it to where he expected Richardson to stop instead. The Buccaneers intercepted the pass in the red zone to ruin what was in that game a precious scoring chance — the Seattle offense failed to score a touchdown for the third game this season. … Jordan Tripp, a third-year veteran from Montana who Seattle signed to its practice squad in early September, made his second NFL start last weekend at strongside linebacker. He didn’t practice Wednesday because of a thigh injury. ... Mike Morgan will start at strongside linebacker against the Panthers. Morgan missed the last seven games following a sports-hernia surgery, and is the team’s lone designee to return from injured reserve this season. … Tight end Jimmy Graham’s absence from midweek practice is starting to become routine as he receives maintenance for the patellar-tendon surgery he had in his knee last winter. … For Carolina, All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed practice with the concussion that kept him out of last weekend’s loss at Oakland. … Starting safety Kurt Coleman also was out with a concussion. ... Leading rusher Jonathan Stewart — from Lacey and Timberline High School — did not practice, enjoying what the Panthers listed as “rest.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle