The Seahawks officially ended Jimmy Graham’s Seattle-debut season on Monday when they put him on injured reserve in advance of surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee.
Coach Pete Carroll was stronger Monday afternoon in his weekly meeting with the media at team headquarters than he had been in the morning on the radio in saying the NFL’s most accomplished tight end since 2011 will return to playing before Seattle’s 2016 season begins.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yes,” Carroll said.
Asked if that meant the 29-year-old Graham, for whom Seattle traded two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans in May, would be back on the field for the start of training camp in late July Carroll said: “I don’t know about the dates of that, but there’s plenty of time for him to get back.”
The Orthopaedic Trauma Center at the University of California-San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital states surgery for a patellar tendon rupture usually occurs within four weeks.
“After the surgery, it typically takes between six and eight weeks for the tendon to heal,” the clinic states. “During that time, the knee is kept straight in a brace for a majority of the time to allow the repair to heal without stretching out. Once the surgeon has determined that the repair is healed, physical therapy begins in order to regain motion of the knee and strength in the quadriceps.”
Six to eight weeks of the tendon healing would put Graham into late February, at the long end of that estimate. The Seahawks’ offseason training program usually doesn’t begin in earnest until March.
Graham has two, non-guaranteed years remaining on the four-year, $40 million contract he signed with the Saints before the 2014 season. The Seahawks inherited that contract in the trade. It paid him $2.9 million guaranteed with another $5.1 million in roster and workout bonuses this season.
The 6-foot-7 Graham’s season ends with 48 catches for 605 yards in 11 games. Those are the lowest totals since his rookie year with the Saints in 2010, when he’d yet to become a full-time starter. His two touchdown catches this season were a career low. But he had been emerging in recent games as a more consistent target and threat as Russell Wilson has gotten more time to throw behind an improving offensive line.
The Seahawks filled Graham’s spot on the active roster by re-signing defensive tackle A.J. Francis. Seattle released the part-time Uber driver last week after it had claimed him off waivers from Miami. Francis is on the roster for depth with defensive tackle Jordan Hill recovering from a toe injury and Demarcus Dobbs beginning the league’s concussion protocol. Hill and Dobbs got hurt in Sunday’s 39-30 win over Pittsburgh.
Graham’s injury came with just over 13 minutes left in Sunday’s game, in which he had four catches for 75 yards. Graham’s right leg caught awkwardly in the end-zone turf amid double coverage on an incomplete pass from Wilson. Carroll and a team doctor immediately rushed to Graham, and the day’s only hush fell over an otherwise raucous CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 69,055. Wilson joined Carroll and the doctor on a knee over the fallen tight end. Graham hopped gamely onto a motorized cart with an air cast over the majority of his right leg.
Carroll hinted "we may do some things in next day or so" regarding adding another tight end. Luke Willson, 12 catches this season behind Graham, is now the starter with Cooper Helfet the No. 2 tight end. That was the arrangement for much of last season, after Zach Miller had career-ending ankle injuries.
SHEAD REMAINS STARTING CB
DeShawn Shead is going to remain the starting right cornerback for the foreseeable future. As he did Sunday following the win Carroll praised the part-time safety and nickel back for playing well amid an aerial bombardment by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ deep-running receivers.
“We feel pretty good about DeShawn again this week,” he said.
Shead broke up three deep passes -- which is about three more than Cary Williams had been breaking up per game -- and four passes total on Sunday. Williams has four breakups for the season. Williams, Seattle’s $18 million free-agent signing in March to replace departed free agent Byron Maxwell, went from starter to a sweat suit on the sidelines Sunday, inactive for the game.
Carroll said he liked what Shead brings in coverage and tackling and that he will start again Sunday at Minnesota. Asked what Williams’ role now is, the coach said tepidly: “He’s trying to fight for playing time.”
LYNCH’S RECOVERY “ON SCHEDULE”
Carroll was vague on how long running back Marshawn Lynch will remain out but said “everything is on schedule” and going well following Lynch’s abdominal surgery in Philadelphia Wednesday. Lynch stayed back East through week’s end to begin his rehabilitation, which will now shift to team headquarters. The original estimate the coach gave for a possible return for the league’s leading rusher since 2011 was perhaps three or four weeks, which could be for the Dec. 13 game at Baltimore or Dec. 20 against Cleveland. But, again, the Seahawks aren’t saying anything new about when Lynch might be back.
SUPRISING IRVIN TO START AT MINNESOTA
Starting outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was a “surprise,” in Carroll’s word, in playing 33 of the defense’s 80 snaps Sunday. Irvin had been doubtful to play after missing the previous week’s win over San Francisco with a sprained knee ligament. But he ran better than he had in weeks during Seattle’s pregame warmups Sunday, so in he went first as a nickel pass rusher and then more on early downs as the game went on. Irvin is on track to start at Minnesota. Veteran Mike Morgan had made his first two starts in five years the last two weeks for him.
RICHARDSON TO RETURN
The Seahawks should have wide receiver Paul Richardson full go at practice on Wednesday and returning from his hamstring injury for Sunday’s game, the coach said. The second-round draft choice in 2014 has played in one half of one game this season, getting hurt on his only target and catch, a 40-yard sprint down the sidelines Nov. 15 against Arizona. That was three games ago.
BURLEY INJURY MINOR
Carroll said defensive back Marcus Burley has a "minor" sprained ankle and may play Sunday at Minnesota, Carroll said.
Here are the snap counts from Sunday’s game:
WHAT CARROLL SAID MONDAY:
Head Coach Pete Carroll
November 30, 2015
(On if anything stood out about the way that DeShawn Shead played) "He played a really good, tough game. He had a lot of challenges and he came through at the point of the ball coming in a number of times. They got him once, but all in all, he played really good. Did a very good job. We were all really proud of him."
(On if there is any news on when Jimmy Graham will have his surgery) "No."
(On if he expects Jimmy Graham to be ready for next year) "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yes. I don’t know about the dates of that, but there’s plenty of time for him to get back."
(On if there are degrees to the injury Jimmy Graham sustained) "You just trying to make me look bad, like I don’t know this stuff? No, I don’t know. It’s a ruptured patella, so we’ll see what happens."
(On where the team will miss Jimmy Graham the most) "I think in all phases we’ll miss him. He’s a great guy, we like him. He’s fun to have around, he’s a terrific player. I think you’re probably asking about the football part. We’ve been growing with him, and you expect certain guys to do things and so we’ve expected Jimmy to make some plays and do some special things. It’ll be a little bit different. We’ll just change, we go to the next guy. Luke [Willson] does all kinds of good things, and we utilize him in the fashion that he suits best."
(On if Luke Willson is helped by already being in this position when Zach Miller went down) "Luke’s got plenty of confidence. He’s a vet now, he’s been around. There’s nothing that’s going to surprise him now. He’s really in the groove of it and he’s ready to go. That was evidenced by he jumped right up to make a play the next snap, and away he goes. He’ll be fine."
(On if Cooper Helfet will play more) "Yeah. We may do some things here in the next day or so."
(On if it’s a new reality that they have to score more points to win games) "I don’t think it feels that much different. I know there’s a lot of concern and stuff. That was a big game we went through yesterday and monstrous output by Ben [Roethlisberger] and all that. I think that was really that game, it happened, and they had to stay with us too so he was gunning it. They didn’t care about the running game after a while, so it just became a throwing ball game. None of that factors in. Really, it doesn’t."
(On what he takes away from that defensive performance) "It was great to get the turnovers, to make the plays when we had to and give us a chance against a wide open team that was bombing away. They were firing it. That’s kind of how it goes sometimes. You guys forget how many yards Peyton [Manning] threw for in the Super Bowl [XLVIII]. We’ve had a lot of yards thrown on us at times. When guys are really committed to throwing the ball, you can make a lot of yards and that can happen. This doesn’t seem such a crazy deal to me, just that they played great. I thought Ben [Roethlisberger] was awesome and his receivers were fantastic. We made some mistakes that gave him some chances that we normally would like to eliminate and we’ll get better at."
(On how he felt Earl Thomas played yesterday) "He was trying really hard. He’d get out of position a couple of times, missed a couple tackles. He’s played better than that."
(On what Cary Williams’ role is going forward) "Right now he’s trying to fight for playing time, trying to get back in. [DeShawn] Shead did a good job and we feel pretty good about DeShawn coming back again this week."
(On Jimmy Graham really clicking in the offense the last two weeks) "I don’t know, I think that’s more your opinion than mine. I think he’s been feeling comfortable in it for a while. We always want to get him the ball more. He’s blocking well, he’s shown that he’s going to be a really good blocker. I think he’s realizing his potential there. He’ll see it, and I think when he comes back he’ll even be better. I don’t think it was the last couple weeks, I think he’s been playing right in it. We always are trying to get him the football because he was that good of a player. Some games he had bigger numbers than others, but he’s had an effect in a lot of games."
(On how Jeremy Lane came out of the game) "He’s pretty sore today. He rolled all of fall camp and preseason games and all of that into one. I think he played 30-something plays, which was more we had anticipated going in and had hoped for. So he’s feeling it a little bit today, but he’ll be all right. He didn’t get hurt or anything."
(On if the improvement in the pass protection is the natural progression of the offensive line) "I think it’s what you can expect, if you keep them together and they can feel some success and start to build on that. This has been coming, this was their best game probably protecting the passer against a very difficult group to figure out who’s coming, who isn’t. Communication was good, sets were really solid. Russell [Wilson] had a really good pocket and he really took advantage of that. I think this is the culmination of these weeks and yeah, we are getting better. If you stay at it and you don’t change and you don’t mess them up, then we should expect them to improve. I think that’s what’s happened. I’m hoping that we’re going to keep going. We’re going to rely on the fact that they’re improving and they can handle the burden of the challenges and all of that. This is pretty exciting I think, at this point."
(On what made a difference for Russell Wilson between the Arizona game and the Pittsburgh game) "That’s one of those questions where if I go on with the answer, it’s assumed that I agree with you about that Arizona game. I can’t remember the Arizona game. I think the most obvious part of this is really what’s going on up front. I think we’ve just come a long ways, and I think the pocket being so consistently solid for him makes a huge difference. The rhythm, since the break we had, we’ve really tried to feature a fast rhythm and making sure he’s really got a chance to get the ball out fast to keep the pressure off of the guys up front. All of that has happened with more earnest because of how the start was. I think it’s a combination, but I really think the guys up front are really improving and that’s what’s made the difference for us. We’re playing off of that."
(On how vital Thomas Rawls and Fred Jackson picking off blitzes has been) "It always is. It’s all part of the protection. We always stick it all on the offensive line, and it isn’t. They’ve got five guys out there, so they have a lot of bodies that are involved. All of that is crucial, in the calls that we make and the identification. That’s all coordinated, all of that is part of it, and even the tight ends when they’re part of the protection. Those guys are both good blockers, and we expect them to pick up stuff properly and be physical when they have to. That was part of yesterday."
(On how key Patrick Lewis has been to settling down the offensive line) "I’ve said it to you guys. I think he has been a factor, I guess because it’s the most obvious thing that’s really changed. I don’t mind giving him credit for that. In general, it’s been a process of growth for the whole group. I think a lot of guys can go in there and fill in right now, and we could pop guys into the lineup if we had to. I think they would perform well also. I do think he’s been a factor and I’m hoping that’ll continue to be a real positive for us."
(On what changed in Patrick Lewis’ play between training camp and being named starter) "No. Other than, there was a concern back last year, the time we played one of the Arizona games. Might have been the second Arizona game when he played. We thought he might have been struggling a little bit with the communications and all that. We wondered if that was going to be an issue going into this year, and that’s not an issue. That’s an area that he’s really improved at, and we have a lot of confidence in him. The guys are playing with confidence, because it all starts right there up front, in the middle. He’s doing a good job of that."
(On if yesterday was one of Russell Wilson’s strongest games in the pocket) "Yeah. I jump back to maybe even way back to that Atlanta game that we had that was playoff time. He really was bombing the ball around and we really had great pass protection on that day. He’s done it before is what I’m getting at. I think I’ve said this to you guys on numerous occasions, but I think he’s the best he’s been in the pocket. You can see him most solid with his reads and his decision making and all of that. I think that was an illustration of it yesterday, that he has come a long way and he’s really comfortable. He can rip the football and use all of his guys and use the whole field when we can give him a chance to. It’s a real positive sign."
(On being ranked 2nd in yards per pass attempt) "We had the most explosive plays last year, and we’re on track with that same number we had last year after eleven games. That’s a good sign for us. It is a big deal when you don’t throw the football as much as these other teams. It doesn’t mean you can’t be explosive and you can’t make plays and all. I think off of the running game and with the focus that we direct people towards with how they have to commit to the running game, it makes things available. But it’s also the guys making the plays. It’s the same guys making the plays. Russell [Wilson] getting the ball to Doug [Baldwin] and getting the ball to [Jermaine] Kearse and those guys. And the tight ends when it was Luke [Willson], and when it’s Jimmy [Graham], they’re down the field doing things with it. I think we’re an aggressive throwing team in that regard to play off of our other stuff. Just because you don’t throw a lot doesn’t mean you can’t be explosive. So obviously we’re proving that, and I hope we can keep that going. It’s a big factor for us."
(On if Doug Baldwin is doing anything this year better than ever before) "Yeah, he’s just so confident that he knows he can get open, he knows he can make his plays. I think he’s been connected with Russell [Wilson] for so long that he knows where the ball’s going to come to him and the concepts that we throw. The crossing route he caught yesterday, he didn’t see it until the ball was at least half way there. But expecting that, he knew he was open. He knew he should be the read. It was just phenomenal anticipation of that last moment he made a catch. I thought it was a great catch. I think that’s part of the connection that they have."
(On what happened on the Steelers 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton) "He [Earl Thomas] reacted to the scramble. He was on the back end and he saw Ben [Roethlisberger] coming running up as he had a couple times, and he reacted and took him out of helping Kam [Chancellor] back there on the deep end. The safeties are supposed to take care of that."
(On Marcus Burley’s health)" He has a minor sprained ankle. He’s got a chance to get back."
(On Bruce Irvin playing Sunday) "First off, that was a big surprise. We didn’t know that he would make it. It was one of those things—we’ll tell you ‘at game-time,’ you know? And you always think we’re making that up, I think. But that was exactly one of those time when he went out there and he ran really well, and surprised himself, surprised the coached and the trainers, so we had to make a different decision. We had anticipated that he probably wouldn’t be able to go, but he looked great and felt great, so we went with him and played him on a limited basis. He did okay, so he’ll come back this week and be ready to go."
(On if they have an advantage playing against defenses that play cover 3) "We do work against it a lot, yeah. It does help some. The obvious advantage I don’t agree with, but we get to work against it."
(On Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu) "Both those guys are in the protocol. They’re in that, and we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll be very careful with these guys. I can’t tell you anything until we get to Wednesday when we know something."
(On Marshawn Lynch) "Reports are that everything’s going really well. That doesn’t mean that we know what it’s going to project at the other end, but the work that he’s done back there as we’ve heard and has been reported is that everything’s going fine and is on schedule."
(On if anything from film study led to the successful plays on third and ten) "No. We had a plan, and we knew what we wanted to do. We just executed really well. Guys got open beautifully and the protection was there. We were able to hit the plays. That’s a real surprising accomplishment to hit five out of five. The league average on third and ten plus is probably about 18 percent or something like that when you convert them. So that’s a really cool accomplishment in the game."
(On how Thomas Rawls played in the game) "He did fine. He ran hard. I was worried about him early. He got going, he was so sick going in that he might wear him out in the first quarter. But he made it through it, survived it. He was concerned. He had felt so poorly that he wasn’t sure if he could last. He sucked it up and did a great job to finish the game for us."
(On Rawls consistency as a rookie) "I think it’s terrific. Very, very impressive that he’s solid, he’s consistent, his mentality is really on it. He has a work ethic about it and a standard for his work that he’s going to bring every day that’s really cool and makes you believe that he’s going to be consistent. There’s no hesitation in our minds now that he’s going to go out there and bang away and give you a great effort every time he goes. He’s proven that to us already."
(On if the Steelers fake field goal was obvious since their backup quarterback was in) "We did a really good job studying. We had to go back a long ways to see that, something that was similar to that. Fortunately, our guys weren’t surprised by it."
(On Paul Richardson possibly returning this week) "He’s got a great shot. We’re counting on him coming back and practicing, at least in limited fashion on Wednesday just to prove it, but we think he might be full-go on Wednesday. He really feels great, and we should have him back."
(On if the missed PATs are any concern) "Yeah, we kicked the ball low the other day. We’ve got to get the ball up. Two of those that were blocked were both fairly low kicks. So [Hauschka] has got to get that ball higher."
(On if that is a new issue for Hauschka) "It’s happened before."
(On if re-signing A.J. Francis could help if Demarcus Dobbs can’t play). "Yeah, A.J. would go. We need to see the health in general of the group. Jordan Hill got banged up too, so we need to see how he does this week. He hurt his toe."
(On how Frank Clark is playing) "He’s doing fine. I wish that the split between him and Michael [Bennett] would have been a little more balanced out playcounts-wise, but it was because it was such a big nickel game it didn’t matchup quite like we had hoped. But he’s a regular in the rotation and we’re counting on him to make things happen. It was a heck of a rush when he beat him. He had a couple of other really good plays too. He’s a very flashy player. He jumps out at you at times. So we just need him to stay on the field out there so we can get those looks for him. He’s doing fine."
(On Richard Sherman this season) "Well I think – I can’t remember how much we talked about this – but I think giving him a shot to show us how he could play at the nickel spot got him inside on the slot and got him working both sides and all that. That just added to the story a little bit that he was prepared and ready to do whatever we needed him to do. He’s always been willing, but now that he’s worked all over the place we have a lot of flexibility with him. That was always the issue. You guys were wondering why we left him left and right. Over a lot of years technique-wise guys get settled in on one side or the other. When you don’t flip flop them, then you’re asking them to do stuff that can feel a little bit left-handed at times. So now that he’s had the preparation, and so has [DeShawn] Shead, we’ve made our other guys do that. It gives us some flexibility to do whatever we want to do in a game plan. But he’s doing well. The two big matchup games we did with Dez [Bryant] and then here this week, he was obviously on it. And he likes it and takes to the challenge of it, and does a good job with it. So we have that whenever we want to do that."
(On if it is a good sign Russell Wilson has not scrambled as much in recent games) "Yeah, heck yeah. He doesn’t have to. Look at the results of him able to be in the pocket and the ball’s coming out clean, he’s clean back there, we can expect a much more dynamic attack from there. But having that in our back pocket whenever we need him, he made a great play on the play-pass that we had. He ducked, and spun around, and came up and found Tyler [Lockett]. That’s the kind of stuff that he can do whenever he needs it. So it’s not like he’s going to forget. I’m not worried about that. He’ll get out and move when we need him to. There’s a really big-time pass rush that we’re going to see from these guys this week. We’re going to need all assets. Part of it is in the pocket, part of it is when he gets out. So I think it’s a good sign. I don’t think he’ll forget."
(On if Russell Wilson has done anything to help the protection) "Yes. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying. The rhythm really helps the guys up front. Then when we get deep on the play-passes and we separate him from the line so we can get the ball down the field and do the things we want to do, that is different than the quick rhythm stuff and it gives us a variety that I think it starting to work for us. It has worked in the past for us."
(On how Russell Wilson is doing today) "He’s fine. I just visited with him. He’s fine."
(On USC hiring Clay Helton) "I think it’s a great choice in so many ways. I’m fired up for everybody down there. He’s done a really good job. He’s got a real way about him. I don’t know him personally, but I just watched him and have asked a lot of questions about the team and how they’re doing. He has a way about him with his players. Players really respond, and they’ve got a great style too. They played so tough against UCLA and showed what their makeup is and what it’s going to be in the future. Obviously he has really good command of all of it and what it takes. He had a big recruiting class coming in. All those positives, I think it’s a really good move. Instead of the transition that would take place with a big changeover and all of that, I think they’re going to be able to really take advantage of this. I’m excited for him."
(On if USC asked his opinion about a coaching hire) "No, I’m detached from that.”