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Walter Thurmond ‘a good playmaking kid’

Posted Sep 2, 2013

Monday metatarsal musings: Having just completed his first full training camp and preseason for the Seahawks, fourth-year cornerback Walter Thurmond III is eager to make up for lost time.

If patience and perseverance count for anything, then count Walter Thurmond III in. In triplicate.

The best thing about the fourth-year cornerback during the just-completed preseason was not the good-reaction-even-better-read play that led to an interception against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night. Or even his 29-yard punt return in that game. Or his 46-yard punt return in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers. Or his five-tackle, fumble-recovery effort in the Week 3 game against the Packers in Green Bay.

No, the best thing about Thurmond’s preseason – and entire summer, for that matter – is that he was out there. From impressive start to even-more-impressive finish.

“It’s been very fun,” Thurmond said through a smile in the locker room at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night. “This has been my first full training camp since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been thankful for the opportunity and just being able to show the coaches that I’m healthy.”

Showing turned into Show Time for Thurmond.

In addition to averaging 20 yards on five punt returns, Thurmond had 12 tackles – fourth on the team behind backup middle linebacker Allen Bradford (22), strong safety Kam Chancellor (15) and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (13); and two passes defensed – tied for second with cornerback Byron Maxwell behind just-released safety Winston Guy (3).

It’s the kind of production, and versatility, the Seahawks expected when they took a chance on a player who was coming off a devastating knee injury his senior season at the University of Oregon. The club selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, feeling they were getting a first- or second-round talent once Thurmond was healthy.

But it appeared “once” might turn into once upon a time for Thurmond. He began his rookie training camp on the physically unable to perform list because of the continuing rehab that followed tearing the all three ligaments in his right knee returning the opening kickoff in the Ducks’ season opener in 2009. But Thurmond played in 13 games as a rookie, with one start.

In 2011, he was penciled in as the starter on the right side. But a hamstring injury sidelined him in training camp, opening the door for Brandon Browner. The refugee from the CFL not only won the job, Browner finished the season by playing in the Pro Bowl. Thurmond got another chance to start, on the left side, after Marcus Trufant was injured four games into the 2011 season. But in his second start, Thurmond broke his left leg and also damaged the ankle – injuries that required surgery. The leg had to be re-broken during the 2012 offseason, which prompted Thurmond to start last season on PUP. He returned to play in two games, only go on injured reserve with a hamstring problem.

But Thurmond is back, and reminding everyone what they were missing.

“It’s really been great to have Walter throughout the offseason and preseason,” coach Pete Carroll said. “This is the first time that we felt like he was really able to apply himself and physically be ready to meet all of the challenges.

“He had a great preseason. He can help us in the kicking game in a number of ways and he’s just a good playmaking kid.”

Thurmond will share the punt return duties with Golden Tate, Carroll said, and he has emerged as the top candidate for the nickel back spot in the defense used when opponents opt for three wide receivers as the Seahawks begin preparing on Monday for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Panthers in Carolina.

“I feel very comfortable with the punt returning,” Thurmond said. “It’s like second nature out there.”

What has impressed Carroll most? “Walter is faster than heck and he plays very aggressive,” he said.

Thurmond always has, when he’s been able to play.

“It’s really good for him,” Carroll said. “He’s been waiting. It’s been a long time since he’s felt this type of continuity in showing who he is and what he’s all about.”

Thurmond also is showing that the long wait was worth it.

“Most definitely the perseverance and patience has paid off,” he said, through yet another smile. “Most definitely it has.”

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks