Sure looks and sounds like Kelcie McCray will make his first career start at strong safety on Sunday for the Seahawks against Cleveland because of Chancellor’s bruised tailbone. McCray took all the first-team snaps at practice this week.
Coach Pete Carroll said following Friday’s indoor practice at team headquarters Chancellor’s availability will be a game-time decision. The hard hitter and team leader hasn’t practiced all week after he bruised his backside during the second quarter of last week’s win at Baltimore.
"He’s questionable right now. We’ll wait until all the way up until game time to see if he can bounce back," Carroll said.
Despite assorted pains and offseason hip surgery before the 2014 season, Chancellor had missed just three games in four seasons before sitting out the first two this season in a holdout protesting his pay. He is certainly so well-acquainted with Seattle’s defensive system he doesn’t need to practice to play. But this may be the week to get him fully healthy for the Seahawks’ final push toward the playoffs. The Browns are 3-10. Two regular-season games remain after this one, home against St. Louis (6-8*) next week and at NFC West-leading Arizona (11-2) Jan. 4.
Cleveland has the league’s 30th-ranked rushing offense, an coming up to the line of scrimmage is what the Seahawks’ scheme asks of the strong safety – McCray said more than Kansas City’s, Tampa Bay’s and Miami’s did when he played for those teams from 2012 through last season.
McCray said his practice and reserve playing time at strong and free safety were "about 50-50" with the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Dolphins.
The Seahawks traded a draft choice to Kansas City at the end of the preseason to get McCray because they valued the former three-year quarterback at Hardaway High School in Columbus, Georgia, for his standout special-teams play, and to be a backup at strong safety when Chancellor was holding out. Once Chancellor returned they had McCray practicing some at free safety behind All-Pro Earl Thomas. All season coaches have been impressed with the 6-foot-1, 205-pound McCray’s ability to tackle in the open field – no small feat on full-speed punt and kickoff returns on which he’s sprinting more than half the field.
"He had great range, really good speed, and he played really good in space,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. “Those are all attributes that we’re looking for in regards to a safety. And the simple fact that when he puts his body on people, he tackles really well, they go down."
Richard sounds fine with McCray if he has to start for the first time in his 45-game NFL career.
“He did a really good job (last week at Baltimore subbing for Chancellor),” Richard said. “Aside from the fact that he maintained his role on special teams, and then came out and continued to stand up for us on defense. The guy is in great shape, and he knows what to do. He’s a true professional in regards to the fact that he’s always preparing himself to be ready to play."
Here is the injury report for the game:
▪ Even though DeShawn Shead is listed as questionable, Carroll said the starting right cornerback will start against the Browns. Shead has made a speedy recovery from a sprained ankle he got during the win at Baltimore.
▪ TE Luke Willson has also wowed coaches with how quickly he got back from an injury to his ribs last weekend that Carroll described as more than a bruise. He’s going to play, as well. “I don’t know how they got back so fast,” Carroll said of Shead and Willson.
▪ DT Jordan Hill (a partial tear in his big toe) is out for the third consecutive game.
▪ Backup TE Anthony McCoy is out after sustaining a high-ankle sprain in his season debut last weekend.