SEATTLE – Maybe if C.J. Prosise had been able to stay on the field more consistently the last two seasons and fulfilled the promise shown on that glorious November night in New England in 2016, the Seahawks wouldn’t have felt compelled to draft Rashaad Penny in the first round last March.
But with Prosise playing just 11 of 32 games the last two seasons and leading the list of a frustrating litany of injuries to Seattle’s tailbacks since 2015, the Seahawks drafted Penny hoping to assure that there was always a healthy and capable tailback to call on as the team attempts to revive a flagging rushing attack.
“Well, just to have the running backs there when we play will be really nice,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said a few days ago. “Just showing up would be good. We’ve had it pretty difficult the past couple of years and this is a really exciting group because there’s depth and there’s competition.”
But in the coincidence bordering on irony that makes following sports so appealing, it is suddenly Prosise who will get another shot to prove his potential thanks to a broken finger suffered by Penny and a possible injury to Mike Davis, who surprisingly sat out practice Wednesday with a sore big toe.
The Seahawks confirmed Wednesday that Penny had surgery, in Philadelphia, to fix a fracture on the pointer finger on his left hand, suffered during a pass rush drill on Monday.
But Carroll said after Wednesday’s practice the prognosis on Penny is better than originally thought.
“He had surgery that worked out beautifully,” Carroll said, adding that Penny will be out only “a couple of weeks. He’s not going to be in a cast or any of that kind of stuff so he’s in pretty good shape. We got a great report on it. So he’s not going to be out very long at all.”
Asked if he was confident Penny would be ready for the regular season opener Sept. 9 at Denver, Carroll said simply “yes.”
Carroll also said Penny has done enough so far that he’s confident the rookie can handle whatever the team throws at him come Week 1.
“I don’t have any doubt about what he is capable of doing,” Carroll said. “I really don’t. Just got to make sure he’s in great shape and let him play ball.”
So maybe the Seahawks get Penny back for the final preseason game against the Raiders, or maybe they give him the extra week to prepare for the regular-season opener.
Regardless of Penny’s status, the Seahawks are set at starting tailback with second-year player Chris Carson having shown all camp that he is ready to pick up where he left off when he was injured four games into last season, after he’d showed that he could be the team’s tailback of the present and future.
But with Penny out, the spots after that are a jumble.
Davis, who led Seattle’s tailbacks with 240 rushing yards last season, would likely have assumed the backup job for as long as Penny is sidelined.
But Carroll said Davis suddenly felt soreness in his big toe Wednesday while trying to run before practice and was held out.
“Didn’t even know he had it until he tried to get out here and run today,” Carroll said. “So I don’t have much to report on it.”
The Seahawks also have J.D. McKissic and recently-signed Gerald Holmes to back up Carson with Penny and Davis out.
If Davis is out long, the Seahawks may feel compelled to add another running back. Maybe Davis returns quickly. But if not, the door opens for Prosise, who has been at turns tantalizing, albeit often frustrating, since arriving as a third-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2016.
While Penny and Davis were out Wednesday, Prosise, who sat out last Thursday’s preseason opener against the Colts with a hip flexor issue, was back in pads, though he was still limited to only early work.
Prosise said he’s healthy and expects to play against the Chargers.
“Feeling great. Ready to be out there Saturday,” Prosise said Wednesday, insisting the injury was no big deal. “Just a little hip flexor tightness. Nothing too serious. Just something had to kind of let it calm down and then get back out here and be full go.”
The Seahawks have never doubted Prosise’s potential, which was confirmed when he rushed for 66 yards and caught seven passes for 87 more to spark a 31-24 win at New England in 2016 – one of the most memorable regular-season wins of the Carroll era.
He then had a 72-yard TD run the next week against the Eagles before suffering a shoulder injury. He has rushed for just 27 yards since.
But his draft status and those brief glimpses were enough to make most observers think he’d likely earn a roster spot this season.
Then, on game day last week, it emerged that Prosise wouldn’t play, making many fans wonder if he’s just destined to never be healthy enough to show the team what he can really do.
Now, this sudden opportunity looms large for Prosise.
Even with Carson and Penny as the likely 1-2 punch at tailback, the Seahawks had Prosise ticketed this season to again handle the third-down/two-minute back role that is a particularly good fit for his skill set. But McKissic and Davis can do that, too, another reason Seattle’s patience with Prosise doesn’t figure to last as long this time around.
Prosise said Wednesday he doesn’t feel any extra pressure this year to show the team what he’s worth. But he also talked of having changed his conditioning regimen this offseason, appearing to feel some urgency to get his career back on track.
He said he made it a point to lift every day to strengthen his body, while also trying to tailor his training to the particular demands of playing NFL running back after having spent much of his college career as a receiver.
“I feel 10 times, 100 times better than I have any other year that I’ve been here,” Prosise said. “So I’m just excited to be back out there with my teammates. I’ve got to step up now with Penny being down for a little bit. So I’m just excited to be back out there.”
Now to not only get back out there but show some staying power, as well.
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