RENTON, Wash. – Louis Rankin may not have impressed scouts enough to hear his name called in the 2008 draft, but he has shown Seahawks coaches enough for Seattle to part ways with a former star to take a closer look at the second-year running back.
If Edgerrin James, released by Seattle Tuesday, doesn’t find a job with another team – which is a real possibility for the 31-year-old – it will be Rankin, a second-year player from the University of Washington, who helped end James’ career.
The Seahawks added Rankin to their practice squad in late September, then signed him to the active roster last week despite having no intention of playing him against Dallas. That move was likely made to prevent another team from signing Rankin, and the Seahawks have cleared out space in their running game to give him a chance at his first NFL carries.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said Rankin’s exact role has not been decided, but he may fill a similar role as the one James had with the Seahawks, which was to occasionally spell starter Julius Jones.
Rankin is also expected to return kicks, something he did with the Huskies and briefly with Oakland this season.
“What Louis adds is the element of speed,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said. “That man is extremely fast and shifty. And on a daily basis we watch him go out there and give our defense a real test. And so we want to see that.”
But to see what Rankin has to offer, James had to go. So just like that, what is probably a Hall of Fame career may have ended with little fanfare this week so the Seahawks can take a look at a second-year, undrafted rookie who played for a 4-9 team his senior year. Consider it another example of the harsh realities of the NFL.
“Very simply, in our attempt to get Louis Rankin some plays, a look, to utilize the speed that he has, to see if he has a chance to be a legitimate running back in the National Football League, you have to put someone down,” Mora said. “Edgerrin came in here and did a wonderful job in the locker room. He’s a wonderful person. He’s a pro. He worked his tail off. Unfortunately, the results weren’t what we wanted. Rather than ask Edgerrin James, a man of his stature in this league, to be inactive and be relegated to a position to the scout team during the week, we felt the honorable thing would be to let him go.”
Rankin said it’s tough to see James go, especially because the 11-year veteran frequently offered advice to Rankin and the younger backs.
“It’s a great opportunity for me, at the same time I know it’s probably tough for Edge,” Rankin said. “I learned a lot from him. He taught me a lot of things. I think I’m ready for this and I think I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
In addition to releasing James, the Seahawks made several other moves this week. Mora said the release of James, cornerback Travis Fisher and safety C.J. Wallace had nothing to do with what he said Monday when he warned that those players who weren’t on board wouldn’t be Seahawks at the end of the season.
“Three football-related moves,” Mora said. “Three moves we felt like, in one way or another, could make our team better.”
Offensive lineman Sean Locklear won’t likely start Sunday, but the rest of the roster should be available with the possible exception of backup receiver Ben Obomanu (oblique), who did not practice Wednesday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (ribs) and linebacker Will Herring (shoulder) were both limited, but are expected to be fine for Sunday’s game.
Marcus Trufant (Washington State), who was limited in his return to game action last week, will start this weekend at cornerback, Mora said.
Deion Branch has been the subject of a lot of talk this week following something he said during Sunday’s loss in Dallas. After catching a touchdown pass in the second quarter, Branch ran to a camera and said, “Y’all come find me. Anybody want me, come find me.”
Branch said that comment has been misconstrued, and that it wasn’t a nationally televised appeal to other NFL teams to sign him should his Seattle career end after this season.“I just want to win and I want to play, that’s the bottom line…” he said. “I’ve been accepting my role. Trust me, if I wanted to start something I’d have done it in minicamp. That’s not me.” Branch, who has two years left on his contract, said he has no desire to leave Seattle.