RENTON, Wash. – After one of the toughest games in a long time for the usually reliable Seahawks special-teams unit comes another challenge – the loss of returner Bryan Walters due to a concussion.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after Friday’s practice that Walters won’t play Sunday at Carolina because of a concussion suffered when he fell and hit his head in practice this week.
Walters has been the punt returner since the second game of the season and added kickoff-return duties last Sunday at St. Louis after the trade of Percy Harvin.
Now, the likelihood is that receiver Doug Baldwin will return kickoffs and Paul Richardson punts, though Carroll said others could factor in. Baldwin has returned two kickoffs this season for 26 yards. Richardson has no returns for Seattle but worked on returns during training camp.
Finding a replacement for Walters comes at the end of a week spent trying to figure out what went wrong in St. Louis, where three special-teams plays were pretty much the difference in a 28-26 loss to the Rams.
Seattle allowed a 75-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown, a 90-yard trick-play punt return for a touchdown and a fake punt that ultimately allowed St. Louis to run out the clock.
“A lot of things did happen,” said Seattle special-teams coach Brian Schneider. “It was a perfect storm.”
On the kickoff return, which came after Seattle took a 3-0 lead, usually solid Steven Hauschka mis-hit his kick just a bit, resulting in a ball that bounced into the end zone. Some Seahawks players, Carroll said, thought it would be a touchback and hesitated. Instead, Benny Cunningham took it 6 yards deep and returned it to the Seattle 31.
On the punt return, the Rams faked out the Seattle coverage unit with Tavon Austin on the right side of the field acting as if he were preparing to catch the ball while the kick actually went to the left to Stedman Bailey, who raced 90 fairly easy yards for the score.
Making the play more perplexing is that Seattle punter Jon Ryan always kicks the ball to the left when he is attempting to down the ball inside the 20 – the punt came from the Seahawks’ 49.
“If you drew up the last 300 pooch punts I’ve had, every one of them has gone to the left,’’ Ryan said, adding. “It’s just the way that kick goes that you can control it the best”
Several members of the coverage team said later they simply blew it in not trusting that Ryan would kick it again to the left, as the play called for.
Also declared out for Sunday’s game were TE Zach Miller, C Max Unger, MLB Bobby Wagner, CB Byron Maxwell, DT Jordan Hill and FB Derrick Coleman. Carroll said Wagner will see a foot specialist this weekend to determine the nature of the toe injury he suffered in the Dallas game and said again that he will be out “a while.”
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