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On-the-mend Jordan Hill has those 'what-if' thoughts to motivate him

Jordan Hill was a pass-rushing force for the Seahawks in their six-game winning streak to close the regular season. But he injured a leg in the finale that prevented him from playing in the postseason.


Jordan Hill ran on Tuesday. In fact, the Seahawks' third-year defensive tackle has been running since last Monday.

That might not sound like a big deal, until you remember that Hill was placed on injured reserve last month because he partially tore a calf muscle.

So to say that he is ahead of schedule in his rehab is an understatement that's almost as big as the 6-foot-1, 303-pound Hill.

"I just told (the trainers), 'If we had a game this Sunday, I think I really could play,' " Hill said through a smile as he sat in front of his cubicle in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

And really play is what Hill did during the 2014 regular season, before his injury sidelined him for the postseason. He collected 5.5 sacks during the six-game winning streak to close the regular season, when he also had 14 of his 19 tackles, as the nose tackle in the nickel line.

"I feel good," he said. "But it's not something that I'm rushing, either. It's just really healing a lot better than I thought it was going to. And I'm really running smooth and fluid. I'm anxious to just get going already."

That, of course, isn't going to happen for a while because the offseason program begins in April. Until then, Hill will continue to work to make sure he's ready to do as much work as possible when the rest of the players return.

A third-round draft choice in 2013, Hill played in only four games as rookie, when he missed the first four games because of a biceps injury and also was inactive of the eight of the final 10 regular-season games and all three postseason games. But after Clinton McDonald jumped to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency last offseason, Hill stepped in to fill his pass-rushing role in the nickel line.

"Jordan really caught on late in the year," coach Pete Carroll said. "He took over that role that McDonald had last year, and we hoped he could contribute like that. It worked out."

Until the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams. That's when Hill was injured dropping into coverage on a pass play – during a game in which he also made his first career interception and shared a sack with defensive end Cliff Avril.

"It just happened on a routine type of thing," Hill said. "It was like something I do every day – backpedaling and turning to run. It was just like warming up.

"It was one of those situations that make you think, 'You never know when something is going to happen.' So you have to take advantage of every opportunity that you get."

Which Hill had been doing, before the injury that turned him into a sideline spectator as the Seahawks dispatched the Carolina Panthers in their divisional playoff game, turned in a rally for the ages in their overtime victory against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game and came up a yard short of winning back-to-back Super Bowls in their 28-24 lost to the New England Patriots on Feb. 1.

And yes, that "If only I was on the field" angst was with Hill as he watched Patriots quarterback Tom Brady go 8 for 8 on the fourth-quarter drive to what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. The Seahawks also were without Avril, who went out in the third quarter with a concussion.

How differently might that game have turned out if Hill could have supplied the inside pressure that forced Brady off his spot on one of those completions – 8 and 5 yards to running back Shane Vereen; 8 yards to slot receiver Julian Edelman; 20 and 13 yards to tight end Rob Gronkowski; 6 yards to wide receiver Brandon LaFell; and the 3-yarder to Edelman for the TD?

With the 87th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks select DT Jordan Hill from Penn State.

"The way Mike B. was rushing, he might have given me one just flushing Tom Brady to me," Hill said of the relentless efforts of sack leader Michael Bennett against a steady diet of double-team blocks. "So I did have those thoughts."

And now, Hill has the impetus to get back and get better.

"Through everything – the loss and me getting injured – it's just so much motivation for this upcoming season," he said.

An upcoming season that can't come soon enough for Jordan Hill.

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