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The key for Walter Thurmond is staying healthy

Posted Jun 3, 2013

Walter Thurmond is in his fourth year with the Seahawks, but the promising cornerback has played in only 21 games because of some serious injuries. But he’s healthy, and playing well in the team’s OTA sessions.

Walter Thurmond appeared to be beaten on a red-zone play. But by the time the pass arrived, the fourth-year cornerback was there to make the play.

On another play, with Thurmond lined up as the nickel back, it seemed he had lost his receiver in the congestion that was the middle of the field. Again, Thurmond used his quickness, speed and nifty feet to somehow circumvent everything and everyone to arrive at the receiver in the same blink as the ball.

On yet another play, Thurmond blitzed and flushed quarterback Russell Wilson from the pocket.

This smorgasbord of all the good things Thurmond is capable of doing on the field came Monday as the Seahawks kicked off the final week of their OTA sessions. It also was a reminder of just how good Thurmond can be.

When he’s on the field, that is.

And that has been Thurmond’s primary problem in his first three seasons since the Seahawks got what they considered a steal by selecting the former University of Oregon cornerback in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

His NFL career was delayed because Thurmond was recovering from tearing all three ligaments in his right knee during his senior season for the Ducks. In 2011, Thurmond fractured his left fibula during a late-October game and then re-broke the leg last March, which forced him to spend the first nine games of the 2012 season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He ended it on injured reserve after pulling a hamstring in December.

That’s why in three seasons Thurmond has played in only 21 games, with five starts.

“I’m healthy,” Thurmond said when asked about his impressive performance in Monday’s OTA. “That’s the biggest thing for me, is that I just continue to stay healthy, getting my technique right and just continuing to get better each day.”

If ever there was a guy who deserves an injury-free season, it’s Thurmond, who has handled adversity and injury with perseverance and an attitude that has remained way beyond positive.

“I’ve been in games. I’ve started games,” he said. “I’m hungry to compete for a starting job. That’s my whole mentality right now – to continue to stay healthy and make it tough forever is out there that I’m competing with.”

And Thurmond is competing against some of the best corners in the game. 

During Thurmond’s time with the team, the Seahawks have compiled one of the best starting secondaries in the NFL – if not the best. All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas and Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety Kam Chancellor came in the same 2010 draft that delivered Thurmond. In 2011, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was selected in the fifth round of the draft and Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback Brandon Browner was signed as a free agent after playing four seasons in the CFL.

This offseason, the Seahawks signed former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield to play the nickel back spot that was filled last season by long-time starter Marcus Trufant – who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason.

During Thurmond’s tenure, the Seahawks also have added cornerbacks Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Tharold Simon in the draft and Will Blackmon in free agency.

“We have a lot of depth in the secondary,” Thurmond said. “All the way to the (third unit), we have guys that can start for any team around the league. I think that’s something special. And that’s a credit to (general manager) John Schneider and (coach) Pete Carroll for being able to find these talents in the rough, so to speak.”

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Thurmond remains a valuable commodity, because of his athletic skills and ability to shift almost seamlessly from cornerback to nickel back, and back again – which he did Monday, when he worked as the nickel back with the No. 1 defense and played right cornerback with the No. 2 unit.

Sherman labeled Thurmond “a great corner,” and then added, “Thurm is a starting-caliber corner in this league, probably a Pro Bowl-caliber corner. I think the only reason he’s not is because he’s got two Pro Bowl corners ahead of him.”

That and the injuries that have limited Thurmond the past four seasons.

“Injuries, unfortunately, they’re part of the game,” he said. “That’s the sport we have chosen. We’re modern day gladiators. That’s the consequences of playing this game.

“I just have to stay healthy, keep competing out there and show the coaches that I’m accountable and reliable.”

But there are injuries, and then there are injuries. In addition to the sore hamstrings, Thurmond has had reconstructive knee surgery and two operations on his broken leg.

“There have been some serious injuries,” he acknowledged. “But those injuries have made me stronger as an individual, on and off the field. I don’t regret them at all.” 

If patience really is a virtue, then Walter Thurmond is one very virtuous young man.