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Thurmond steps back in
Walter Thurmond is not only stepping back into the Seahawks’ secondary for the first time since Week 7 last season, he’s stepping in just in time to face the wide receiver he considers the best in the game.
The third-year cornerback is taking over on the right side for Brandon Browner, who was suspended four games by the NFL on Wednesday for violating the league’s performance enhancement policy. That means Thurmond, who started four games in his first two seasons, will start the final four this season – beginning with the Arizona Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
“He’s a great professional,” Thurmond said. “And personally, I think he’s the best receiver in the game. He runs great routes and he doesn’t give you the same thing every time you’re out there.”
This might be the latest instance of next-man-up for the Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked defense that has played in recent games without linebackers K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill. But Thurmond isn’t a classic example of the idiom because he was selected in the 2010 NFL Draft with the idea that he would develop into a starter, and he was expected to be the starter on the right side last year before a training camp injury cracked the door that Browner then kicked in.
“Unfortunately, this league is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of league and we forget that Walter Thurmond was actually starting above Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “So I have the utmost confidence in Thurm. I have no doubt that he’ll be able to go out and perform at a high level.”
Injuries have plagued Thurmond since his senior season at the University of Oregon, when he tore all three ligaments in his right knee. It was that injury that allowed the Seahawks to get a player they consider a second-round talent in the fourth round.
Last season, he stepped into the starting secondary at left cornerback when Marcus Trufant was lost for the season to a back situation. But Thurmond then fractured his left fibula in his second start, which cracked the door that Sherman kicked in. Thurmond re-broke the leg in March, so he started the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He was added to the 53-man roster last month, but saw his first action in Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago as the nickel for Trufant, who was out with a hamstring injury.
“It’s really just being patient,” Thurmond said. “Just getting back to my technique and my form where I was last year and just continue to get better each week.”
But Carroll feels the team being so cautious with Thurmond has him better prepared for what’s about to happen.
“You want him to be up to the speed of the game,” Carroll said. “If you noticed, we took a long time in bringing Walter back. We could have elevated him immediately, but we wanted him to really go through the challenges of it, handle the rigors of the practice mode and then still have more time to get his legs back underneath him again because he had missed so much time.
“We seriously think that we’re fortunate that we have a guy of his caliber ready to step in.”
With Thurmond taking over for Browner, rookie Jeremy Lane will step in for Thurmond as the nickel back. While Lane has made several impressive plays on special teams in the nine games that he’s been active, he has yet to play a snap on defense. But while he might be lacking in NFL experience, Lane is not deficient in confidence.
“I told (the coaches and my teammates) I’ll be ready, and this Sunday I’ll be able to prove that,” he said. “It’s sad that it had to happen that way, but if (Browner) had gone down with like a leg injury it would have been the same opportunity.
“So I just have to step up and take my opportunity.”
Even when those opportunities might include defending Fitzgerald.
“I expect them to come my way,” Lane said. “But hopefully when he comes my way I’ll shut it down, and they can stop picking on me.”
Thurmond shares Lane’s feeling that the rookie will be up to the challenge.
“I feel confident in Jeremy,” he said. “He’s made a lot of progress since he got here. He’s always improving and getting better.”
The same assessment would work for Thurmond.
“I finally get an opportunity,” Thurmond said. “Now, I’ve just got to make plays.”
Starting Sunday against Larry Fitzgerald.