Out-of-sight players providing eye-opening reasons to remember them

Posted Jun 5, 2014

The Seahawks’ coaching staff refers to them as red-shirts – those players who have been limited by injuries or circumstance the past two seasons but are ready to return and mark their mark on this team. 

Greg Scruggs had just finished lining up at three different spots along the defensive line on an unseasonably warm afternoon along the shores of Lake Washington and during yet another spirited, up-tempo practice.

So why was the third-year lineman smiling?

Because he had lined up at five-technique end, three-technique tackle and even nose tackle during the sixth of the Seahawks’ OTA sessions on Thursday. Scruggs missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last May, and also was limited by injuries as a rookie in 2012 after the Seahawks selected him in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.

“It’s fun, man,” Scruggs said. “They take your job away from you for a year and a half; it’s hard not to smile now that I’m back out here.”


Offensive player of the day: Bryan Walters. In counting heads among the wide receivers, there’s Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as the rookie tandem of Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. But don’t count Walters out. The former quarterback from Kirkland’s Juanita High School caught a pair of touchdown passes, including a nice grab of a 10-yarder from Russell Wilson despite tight coverage from cornerback Jeremy Lane.

Offensive plays of the day: In addition to Walter’s first TD catch, Richardson flashed open against cornerback Terrance Parks to catch a 24-yard scoring pass from Wilson in the 7-on-7 drill and followed that a few plays later with a 33-yard reception from Terrelle Pryor.

Defensive player of the day: Cornerback DeShawn Shead displayed his coming-and-going versatility by first deflecting a third-and-12 pass incomplete on a blitz in the two-minute drill and then breaking up a Pryor pass intended for wide receiver Arceto Clark in the end zone.

Defensive plays of the day: In addition to Shead’s double dip, rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis’ coverage on a third-and-6 play took away the inside option for Wilson on a pass to tight end Cooper Helfet, forcing Wilson to throw outside and incomplete.

You don’t say: “I didn’t sign up for this game to be a backup and I didn’t sign up for this game to be a cheerleader. So it’s my turn now.” – defensive lineman Greg Scruggs, who missed all of last season and four games as a rookie in 2012 because of injuries

Coach Pete Carroll refers to Scruggs as a red-shirt player, along with linebacker Korey Toomer, tight end Anthony McCoy, cornerback Tharold Simon and defensive tackle Jesse Williams – also former draft choices who are returning from surgeries. Carroll also includes defensive linemen Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa in the group, because they saw limited action as rookies last season.

But as the Seahawks continue to prepare for the 2014 season, these out-of-sight-but-not-out-mind players are back in the competitive mix to replace those from the Super Bowl championship team who have signed elsewhere this offseason – defensive linemen Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald; defensive backs Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond and Chris Maragos; and tight end Kellen Davis.

“Those are guys who have come out of nowhere. They didn’t even play for us last year,” Carroll said of the majority of the red-shirt seven. “So we’re really excited about the competitive element that adds to the team that we bring back from last season.”

Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel are expected to be the starters at the five-technique end and three-technique tackle spots, with Bennett stepping in for Bryant. But Scruggs has the size (6 feet 3, 310 pounds) and skills to fill a swing role in the rotation that proved so successful for the Seahawks last season.

After his excruciatingly long period of inactivity, Scruggs is ready to tackle anything – any role – that comes his way.

“I’m treating this like my rookie year,” he said. “I’m coming in, regardless of what I’ve done before, and I’m just trying to work and prove myself again and earn my spot again. It’s hard for me to get in the mindset of I’ve been here and just going back to where I was before.

“I can’t. I treat it like I’m a new guy and I’ve got to work as hard as anyone else to earn my spot on the team.”

If you’re waiting for any woe-is-me talk from Scruggs, you’re in for a long wait.

“Quite frankly, the NFL doesn’t allow you to be like that,” he said with a laugh. “But there’s no self-pity. I’m not asking for any empathy or sympathy. None of the above. I like it the way it is. Things happen for a reason. God has a plan. There was some reason I wasn’t supposed to play last season.

“I’m just happy I’m back out here again and I’m ready to go earn my spot again.”

And Scruggs is doing that with the blessing of Bryant, a team leader and still friend who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being released by the Seahawks.

“He never was bitter about it, for even one moment,” Scruggs said. “He only told me that now is my turn to step up. Since he told me that, I’ve taken that to heart and done everything I can to fill his shoes.”

Here’s a closer look at the other red-shirt players:

Toomer – The third-year linebacker “looks like the hottest guy in camp right now,” Carroll said during his Town Hall appearance at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night. Toomer spent the past two seasons on injured reserve after being drafted in fifth round in 2012.

“Korey Toomer has looked fantastic,” Carroll said.

McCoy – A sixth-round draft choice in 2010, McCoy caught 18 passes for a 16.2-yard average and three touchdowns in 2012. But he missed last season after rupturing an Achilles tendon during an OTA workout in May. The team re-signed him in March to complement starter Zach Miller and Luke Willson, a fifth-round draft choice last year.

“Anthony is looking great coming back from the injury that he had,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

Simon – He was drafted in the fifth round last year because he possesses the size (6-2, 202) and length (32¾-inch arms) the Seahawks like at the cornerback position. As NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock put it after the Seahawks drafted Simon, “He fits right in with what Seattle does.” But Simon spent his rookie season on IR because of foot injuries.

“It’s so great to have him back out at practice,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of Simon, who got some work at right corner with the No. 1 nickel defense on Thursday. “He’s certainly someone who has caught our attention so far this offseason and we’re anxious to see what he can do.”

Hill, Williams and Mayowa – Hill (third round) and Williams (fifth) were draft choices last year, while Mayowa made the team as a rookie free agent. Williams spent the season on IR after having knee surgery, while an excess of D-linemen limited the playing time for Hill and Mayowa as rookies.

“Around the office, we sometimes refer to the guys who red-shirted last year,” said Quinn, who rejoined the Seahawks last season after spending two years as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. “Although they didn’t get a chance to play much, I think you’ll get a big impression on what Greg Scruggs can do, and what Jordan Hill can do, and Jesse Williams. And also Benson Mayowa, who we have high hopes for as well.

“We can’t wait to see these guys play. They’ve had a terrific offseason in the way they’ve approached it.”

Scruggs likely summed up the mindset of the red-shirt seven when he offered, “I didn’t sign up for this game to be a backup and I didn’t sign up for this game to be a cheerleader. So it ’s my turn now.”