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Wednesday in Hawkville: K.J. Wright ready to start in the middle, if needed

Posted Oct 9, 2013

The Seahawks’ flexibility at linebacker is coming into play because middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is sidelined with by a sprained ankle. So K.J. Wright has moved back into the middle from the weak side, and been replaced there by Malcolm Smith.

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Oct. 9, when the players began practicing for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans at CenturyLink Field:

WORD OF THE DAY: FLEXIBILITY

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner watched Wednesday’s practice on crutches and with a boot on his right foot to immobilize the ankle he sprained in Sunday’s loss to the Colts in Indianapolis.

So why was Ken Norton Jr. smiling after practice? It’s the flexibility in his group that allowed the Seahawks’ linebackers coach to forge ahead without the team’s second-leading tackler as the team prepares for Sunday’s home game against the Tennessee Titans.

“There’s a method to the madness,” Norton said.

The method in this case was K.J. Wright moving from weak-side linebacker to the middle, where Wright started his first NFL game in the 2011 season opener because then-middle linebacker David Hawthorne was out. Wright responded with five tackles against the 49ers in San Francisco.

And who replaces Wright on the weak side? Malcolm Smith, who played there last season before moving to strong-side linebacker during the offseason. And who replaces Smith on the strong side? Bruce Irvin, last year’s first-round draft choice who got much of his work during the offseason at the spot where he’s now starting.

So while it’s not ideal to be without Wagner, who finished second in voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season; it’s not the end of the Seahawks’ defense as we know it, either.

“Injuries are a part of the game,” said Norton, a Super Bowl-winning linebacker during his NFL career. “So it’s important that you have someone play a position that they’re already familiar with. A lot of times if you play at this level, at a position you’re not familiar with, it could be a bad thing.

“We’re in a very fortunate situation that we have the type of athletes and that we bring in the type of players who are smart enough to play multiple positions and be versatile like that. K.J. started at middle linebacker his rookie season, his very first game, when we didn’t know anything about him. And he really stood in for us against San Francisco. So we’re very pleased with the guy we have in there and he’ll do a very, very good job.”

Coach Pete Carroll stopped short of ruling Wager out for Sunday’s game with what Carroll said was a high sprain of his ankle.

“Bobby thinks he can make it by game time,” Carroll said. “This will go all the way to Sunday.” 

INJURY REPORT: MAX UNGER RETURNS

STAT DU JOUR: JERMAINE KEARSE MAKING MOST OF TOUCHES

At first glance, it appears Jermaine Kearse’s contribution has been limited this season. But look a little closer. The second-year wide receiver and special-teams standout has gotten his hands – or a hand – on the ball eight times, plays that have resulted in two touchdowns and a safety. Here’s a look at Kearse’s contributions:

Opponent Plays
Colts 28-yard TD catch
Blocked punt for a safety
21-yard kickoff return
Texans 30-yard kickoff return
Jaguars 23-yard kickoff return
17-yard reception
Panthers  43-yard TD catch
6-yard reception

The first report of the week, as issued by the team:

Did not practice
DL Michael Bennett (quadriceps)
OT Breno Giacomini (knee)
CB Jeremy Lane (hamstring)
RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related)
TE Zach Miller (hamstring)
CB Walter Thurmond (knee)
MLB Bobby Wagner (ankle)
RB Spencer Ware (ankle)

Full participation
C Max Unger (upper arm)

Unger was expected to be limited, but got all the starter reps in his most extensive action since injuring his arm against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3 and sitting out the past two games.

Carroll provided updates on most of the injured players during his midday session with the media, and Tony Drovetto has the details here.

For the Titans:

YOU DON'T SAY

“It’s tough. I was really looking forward to having the opportunity to play there and be able to play in front of family and friends and stuff. So it’s hard.”

Jake Locker, the Titans’ injured QB who played at the University of Washington and Ferndale High School

Did not practice
LB Patrick Bailey (hamstring)
LB Zaviar Gooden (hamstring)
RB Shonn Greene (knee)
DT Sammie Lee Hill (ankle)
QB Jake Locker (hip, knee)
DE Derrick Morgan (shoulder)
CB Coty Sensabaugh (concussion)
OT David Stewart (ankle)
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring)

Full participation
RB Jackie Battle (neck)
S Michael Griffin (foot)

OPPONENT WATCH: RYAN FITZPATRICK, OR IS THAT MATT FLYNN?

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Titans’ backup QB who will start against the Seahawks on Sunday because Jake Locker is out with a hip injury. Matt Flynn was the Seahawks’ backup QB last season. But they could qualify for one of those separated-at-birth photo comparisons.

And this isn’t the first time Fitzpatrick has heard that one.

“It’s pretty funny, I’ve been confused a few times. People have come up to me and asked me if I’m Matt Flynn,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday during a conference-call interview. “I was at the Super Bowl when it was in Indianapolis walking down the street with my brother. Somebody stopped me and said, ‘Hey, are you ...’ And I’m waiting for it, ‘Yeah, am I Ryan Fitzpatrick? OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Then he goes, ‘Are you Matt Flynn?’”

UP NEXT: “TURNOVER THURSDAY”

The players will practice again on Thursday, which is “Turnover Thursday” on the Carroll calendar. And turnovers have played a vital role in the Seahawks’ 4-1 start. They have produced 15 to share the team lead with the Kansas City Chiefs. They have recovered eight fumbles, which also ties for the league lead. They have seven interceptions, which ties for third in the league. They are plus-7 in turnover differential, which is third in the league behind the Chiefs (plus-10) and Titans (plus-8).

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks