RENTON, Wash. – Walter Thurmond is returning from his four-game suspension just in time to join the Seattle Seahawks for the postseason, but without the starting spot he held before the suspension.
Thurmond was activated to Seattle’s roster Friday ahead of Sunday’s game against St. Louis, adding another talent to Seattle’s secondary. Thurmond spent the past four weeks working out on his own and said Friday he was appreciative of his teammates for understanding he made a mistake.
“I didn’t have to explain anything to anybody. Everyone understood the situation,” Thurmond said. “We’re all human, we all make mistakes and it’s just a great group of guys in here. No one was judgmental about the situation and if anything more encouraging.”
Thurmond was suspended in late November for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Byron Maxwell has started at cornerback with Thurmond out and played well enough that he will continue to be Seattle’s starter Sunday against the Rams.
Thurmond became Seattle’s sixth player officially suspended for substance-abuse or performance-enhancing drugs violations by the league since 2011. That number became seven when Brandon Browner was suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy this month.
“Life is about living, you know, and learning from your mistakes. And if you’re not learning from your mistakes, then you’re just going to keep making more mistakes,” Thurmond said. “I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my life and I’ve lived and learned from those mistakes. It’s just another hiccup in the road and I’m moving forward.”
Seattle waived cornerback Perrish Cox to clear the roster spot for Thurmond. There was speculation that Thurmond’s addition could mean a roster move with injured wide receiver Percy Harvin, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Friday there was no such move coming.
Thurmond was just getting his chance to be the Seahawks’ starter opposite Richard Sherman when his suspension came down. He spent most of the season as the Seahawks’ starting nickel defensive back, with the responsibility to defend slot receivers. When Browner injured his groin against Atlanta in Week 10, Thurmond took the spot and had his first career touchdown when he returned an interception for a TD a week later against Minnesota.
Then the suspension came and Thurmond saw Maxwell play well in his place. Maxwell has three interceptions in four games. That leaves Thurmond’s best chance at getting on the field back in the role as the nickel cornerback.
“Byron has played great football for us and I think he is on a rhythm that we want to take out there in a game like this and there’s no reason to put Walter in that situation after just one week of practice,” Carroll said. “But, Walter is ready to play. If he’s active, he’ll be out there and helping us out.”
Thurmond has started three games this season for Seattle. Even when he wasn’t starting, Thurmond was a critical member of one of the NFL’s best secondary units. Thurmond beat out veteran Antoine Winfield, whom Seattle signed in the offseason, for the nickel cornerback spot during training camp. He had struggled with injuries throughout his career but was finally healthy and playing well ahead of an offseason in which he will be a free agent.
One benefit to the suspension for Thurmond was getting healthy. He said both knees had been bothering him and the four weeks of rest have him feeling refreshed before the playoffs.
“I feel great right now. I’ve got the freshest legs going into the playoffs and the advantage is us right now,” Thurmond said.
Seattle WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle) will be a game-time decision for Sunday. He is questionable on the injury report. … DE Red Bryant (knee) missed the first two days of practice this week but practiced Friday and is expected to play.