Losses in secondary bring Tharold Simon back into Seahawks’ picture

Posted Mar 28, 2014

A pair of foot injuries sidelined cornerback Tharold Simon for his rookie season with the Seahawks. But with the free-agent losses of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, the time is right for Simon to step up.

Remember Tharold Simon? The Seahawks certainly do.

Asked recently about the free-agent losses of cornerback Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, as well as safety Chris Maragos, defensive backs coach Kris Richard offered, “It’s time for Tharold Simon to step up. It’s next man. Let’s go.”

That first step in stepping up for Simon involves completing the rehab from having foot surgery that forced the 6-foot-3 cornerback to spend his rookie season on injured reserve after being selected in the fifth round of last year’s NFL Draft.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Simon said Friday following his latest rehab session at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “I never actually just took a whole year off from football – well, I didn’t really take the year off, I just didn’t get to play because of the injury.

“But like coach Richard says, ‘Now is my time to step up.’ ”

Simon might have been out of sight last season, but he was never out of the coaches’ eventual plans.

“He never got to play football, but the time that he did have out there practicing he showed us some things that we’re accustomed to seeing,” Richard said. “So you look at the upside of what this guy is going to be able to bring to our team.”

Last year, Simon just couldn’t stay on the practice field, let alone get on the playing field.

“It was a rough season for me,” he said. “But I’m coming along, getting better each and every day.”

And no one has to remind Simon of the recent departures from the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary, or what they potentially mean to him.

The cubicles on either side of him in the locker room at VMAC are vacant because they belonged to Thurmond and Maragos. Five spots down is the cubicle that was used by Browner the past three seasons.

“After they drafted me and I got here, I was like, ‘Man, the Lord works in mysterious ways,’ ” Simon said. “This is like the perfect environment for me. I’m playing behind and able to learn from some of the best players in the league – Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman.

“Even Walter and B.B. (Browner) – especially B.B. I looked up to B.B. and admired the way he played before I even got to the NFL.”

With Browner and Thurmond gone, Byron Maxwell will start 2014 the way he finished the 2013 season – as the starter on the right side, opposite Sherman. And Jeremy Lane is the likely choice to replace Thurmond as the third corner used in passing situations.

“I love what Max did when he stepped in last year,” Simon said, referring to Maxwell becoming the starter in December after Browner was injured and Thurmond was suspended by the league. “A lot of people were like, ‘B.B. went down. Well, what else do you have?’ Max showed them what we have, we have depth.”

The Seahawks also have DeShawn Shead, whose athletic ability and versatility allow him to be an option as a backup at either safety spot, cornerback and nickel back; Akeem Auguste, who finished the 2013 season on the practice squad; and Chandler Fenner, who was on IR last season. And Thursday, they re-signed free-agent corner Phillip Adams, who spent the past two seasons with the Oakland Raiders after the Seahawks released him in 2012 – and after Adams had 10 tackles, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery during the preseason.

“And it’s not just the players,” Simon said. “It’s the coaches. This is a great coaching staff. You can start with the head coach, coach (Pete) Carroll. Then down the line, they coach you the right way. I think that’s why we’ve got some of the best DBs in the league, because the coaches care about what you do and they care about seeing you make it – off the field, not just on the field.”

Simon has the attributes Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn covet in a corner – height; length (32¾-inch arms); size (202 pounds); speed (4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day); playmaking ability (seven interceptions and 22 passes defensed in three seasons at LSU); and hips that are more fluid than a corner his size should have.

Asked after Simon was selected in the draft last year if he fit the Seahawks’ template, area scout Ed Dodds said, “Absolutely. He’s big. He’s long. He runs well. He’s very tough. He fits exactly that mold, the guys we have with Richard and Brandon and Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. He fits right in.”

And with Browner now with the New England Patriots and Walter Thurmond now with the New York Giants, the time is right for Simon to show just how well he fits.