Cliff Avril #92 of the Detroit Lions throws Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings to the ground on a sack on November 11, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Clayton King/Getty Images)
by Curtis Crabtree
RENTON - Head coach Pete Carroll said after Wednesday's practice that it's still "not very likely" that DE Cliff Avril will be able to play Saturday against the Denver Broncos.
But just getting Avril back on the practice field Wednesday is a welcome sign after battling foot and hamstring injuries this offseason.
Avril practiced for the first time since July 28 after missing most of the offseason program due to a foot injury. This time it was a hamstring that kept Avril on the sidelines. His work Wednesday was limited to just individual drills and did not take part in team periods.
It's not the start he envisioned for his Seattle Seahawks career.
"Definitely not how I wanted to start," Avril said. "You know, it’s part of football, things happen. For me, it’s just getting better every day and progressing with the injuries and getting ready for the season."
Carroll said they will need to see what Avril can show in practice Thursday before they know for sure that he won't be able to play Saturday, but he said it's a long-shot at the moment.
"We couldn’t get him past the individual periods yet, but we’re going to do a little bit more tomorrow. And then we are just going to start bringing him back. It’s just great to get him back on the field. We need him to be a part of this," Carroll said.
"Let’s wait until after tomorrow and then we’ll see what happens. That’s not very likely (he'll play)."
--Battle at Defensive Tackle
DT Brandon Mebane appears set to be the starting nose tackle for the Seahawks. However, who will line up next to him at 3-technique for the season opener against the Carolina Panthers is still up in the air.
DT Tony McDaniel, DT Jordan Hill and DT Jaye Howard all seem to be in the fight for the job with just over two weeks before final cuts. McDaniel and Howard have both been sidelined by injuries recently which has allowed Hill to take extra turns with the first-team defense.
Hill even exceeded the coaching staff's expectations in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers.
"Jordan Hill is doing really well," Carroll said. "He played better than we had expected on first and second down during the game. He held his own and he was very active. We really liked that he was so quick and that he had a really good savvy for rushing the passer and it showed up on early downs, so that was really exciting for us to see that."
McDaniel has been dealing with a sore groin and will not be able to play again this week against the Denver Broncos. Carroll said they need to see what McDaniel can do soon to know what they have in him as a possible starting option.
"It’s really important," Carroll said. "We haven’t seen him enough to know where he fits. He has a chance to be one of the lead candidates for the three technique spot, but we don’t know anything right now."
Howard has also been out with a shoulder injury suffered against the Chargers last week. Howard has worked both at the 3-technique spot and at the 5-technique defensive end position.
Both McDaniel and Howard will have to get back on the field if they want to challenge Hill for the starting job and hold onto a roster spot.
Six players remain on the PUP and NFI lists for Seattle. WR Percy Harvin (hip), DE Chris Clemons (knee), DT Greg Scruggs (knee), CB Tharold Simon (foot) and TE Zach Miller (foot) remain on the physically unable to perform list. LB Korey Toomer (knee) remains on the non-football injury list.
Carroll said that Toomer still is on crutches and hasn't been able to progree like they had hoped.
"He has not responded as quickly as we would have hoped. We would have liked to have him back, but he’s still on the crutches, and I don’t know how long that is going to take," Carroll said. "It’s unfortunate that it has happened. He was hurt last year as well. We have seen a lot of cool things from him so we’ll just have to wait and see.
CB Ron Parker (hamstring), G James Carpenter (foot), LB Bruce Irvin (groin), DT Tony McDaniel (groin), LB Ty Powell (thigh), DT Jaye Howard (shoulder) and RB Christine Michael (back) also remained sidelined.
Michael managed to get some work in but Carroll said they need to see how he responds.
"He did a little bit of running today," Carroll said. "They have to see how he tolerates it tomorrow. We’re trying to get him back.”
LB Bobby Wagner (shoulder), DT Jesse Williams (knee) and DT Michael Bennett (undisclosed) returned to practice after sitting out on Monday. WR Bryan Walters (hamstring) and CB Byron Maxwell (ankle) also were back on the field.
There were a couple big hits levied by defensive players during Wednesday's practice. S Kam Chancellor drilled RB Robert Turbin when Turbin appeared to lower his shoulder into Chancellor following a run. LB John Lotulelei also delivered a big blow to WR Phil Bates along the sideline, blasting him to the turf.
WR Stephen Williams and WR Jermaine Kearse continue to show they are the class of the receiver group behind the top three of WR Sidney Rice, WR Golden Tate and WR Doug Baldwin.
Williams made a pair of nice grabs behind CB Richard Sherman and CB Will Blackmon. Kearse also picked up a big gain up the right sideline behind CB Byron Maxwell.
Blackmon also made a nice play to rake a would-be catch out of the hands of WR Chris Harper.
The two cornerbacks fighting for the nickel corner job each had interceptions on Wednesday. CB Antoine Winfield intercepted QB Russell Wilson on a ball that may have been tipped at the line of scrimmage and ended up coming right to Winfield. CB Walter Thurmond also made an impressive interception to undercut Kearse on a throw from QB Tarvaris Jackson for a pick.
LB Heath Farwell got some reps with the first-team defense at middle linebacker for the second consecutive day.