Eleven days before the season opener, injuries are starting to become a concern for the Seattle Seahawks.
Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, the projected starters at the defensive end spots, probably won’t be ready for the opener at Carolina on Sept. 8. Starting fullback Michael Robinson, recovering from a virus, also may not play in the opener.
The Seahawks already know defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin won’t play the first four games because of a suspension, reportedly for PEDs.
Two other starters -- defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and receiver Sidney Rice -- won’t play Thursday night against Oakland in the final preseason game. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a possible starter at the 3-technique spot, also won’t play Thursday because of a groin pull.
Mebane suffered a groin injury in practice Monday. Coach Pete Carroll hopes Mebane and McDaniel will be ready for the opener.
Carroll said Rice will play in the opener, but had an unusual comment: “He’ll be ready unless there is a setback next week at practice again.”
A setback again? When was the first practice setback? Rice flew to Switzerland four weeks ago for a 20-minute platelet-enriched plasma treatment on his knee. But he later returned to practice and didn’t show any problems. He has not played in the preseason.
The biggest concern for the Seahawks is the defensive line. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett also won’t play Thursday because he having a procedure done on an injured toe. Carroll expects Bennett to play in the opener.
The Seahawks hoped to shore up their pass rush this season, but two key cogs are iffy in Clemons and Avril. Clemons, who led Seattle with 11.5 sacks last year, still is recovering from off-season ACL surgery.
“He’s making great progress,” Carroll said of Clemons. “We have a big decision to make there.”
The decision is whether to place Clemons on the reserve/ physically unable to perform (PUP) list or to place him on the 53-man roster. If Clemons goes to the PUP list, he can’t play until Week 6. Either way, it’s doubtful he plays in the opener.
Avril, Seattle’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason for the defense, has a hamstring injury and hasn’t played in the preseason. His status for the opener is tentative at best.
“As of this morning he’s feeling better and we’re hoping he will be able to go next week,” Carroll said. “But we won’t know until we get there.”
Even if Avril does play, how effective will he be after missing so much time?
“It’s necessary for him to get out there and play again,'’ Carroll said of Carpenter. “He was really making some progress and missed a couple of weeks here, so it will be great to get him out.”
But the injury problems, especially on the defensive line, are worrisome. The Seahawks may have to rely on two players who weren’t part of the picture a month ago -- free agent defensive ends Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield.
Both have looked good in the preseason, especially Mayowa, an undrafted rookie from Idaho. He has 2.5 sacks and 10 total tackles in three preseason games. Schofield, who played for the Arizona Cardinals the previous three seasons, has a sack, force fumble and fumble recovery in the preseason.
If needed, starting defensive end Red Bryant can move inside and play tackle. Bryant has seen quite a bit of action inside during the preseason.