Brandon Mebane was playing some of the best football of his NFL career in 2014, being so disruptive from his defensive tackle position that cornerback Richard Sherman described him last year as an "immovable object" and "the engine that helps our defense go."
Then in Seattle's Week 10 victory over the New York Giants, Mebane went down with a season-ending hamstring injury.
"It was very hard," Mebane said. "You see guys winning on TV, and I just love what I do. It was tough to see my guys out there playing, but I was happy for them; they had a lot of success out there. But I'm glad to be back in the mix of things."
The Seahawks defense managed to hold it together without Mebane and win another NFC title, but he was still missed, and few sights have been more welcome early in training camp than that of a healthy Mebane back on the field.
"It's great to have him back," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "To have Banger back out with us is a great addition to our football team. He has been a stalwart guy for years, and it was really hard playing without him last year, but the fact that he's back is great news."
Mebane isn't just back; he feels, at 30, like he's in the best shape of his life. Not only did a shortened season give the rest of his body more time to recover, Mebane also changed up his offseason workouts to focus more on different muscle groups, doing everything from strengthening his hamstrings to working on his core.
"Physically I feel great, I feel like I'm about 24, 25," Mebane said. "Thirty-years-old ain't old though. A lot of people think because you're 30-years-old, your time is running down, but I'm a different breed."
Yet as good as Mebane feels, he has been eased back into things a bit after being held out of OTAs and minicamp as a precaution. And that brings us to yet another defensive lineman who is back to full health after a season-ending injury, Jordan Hill.
Hill, a third-round pick in 2013, didn't have the rookie season he or the Seahawks hoped for because of injuries, but in 2014 it looked like he was on his way to a breakout season, collecting 5.5 sacks over a six-game stretch late in the year. But in Seattle's season finale, Hill suffered a minor knee injury, then while rehabbing that injury, he hurt his calf, landing him on IR.
"It was tough, just because I played all season, then I get hurt during our bye week during the playoffs," he said. "I was rehabbing during the week, and just during a simple backpedal, I turned to sprint and my calf popped on me."
Because it is where he has played most often and because he had so much success in that role last season, Hill is viewed by most as an interior pass rusher best suited to play on passing downs, but he hopes to show this season that he is a more complete defensive tackle. While a healthy Mebane is still Seattle's best nose tackle option in the base defense, Hill is getting a chance to play that role at times in camp and is hoping to show what he can do.
"I love playing both," he said. "I don't like hearing people say that I can only pass rush, because I feel like I'm an all-around player. I feel like the more I play, the better I get going during a game. I'm the kind of player to usually start slow, kind of feel it out the first quarter, then I go as soon as I find something."
It was a beautiful, sunny day at Day 2 of Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing.