The Seahawks were back on the field for a "Bonus Monday" practice following their bye week, beginning their week of preparation for an NFC West clash with the first-place Arizona Cardinals.
"It's exciting to get back to football," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's a good break for everyone, we benefitted from the rest. We'll come back pretty darn healthy here going into this week, which is a great sign for the midpoint of the season. We're looking forward to this chance to get home and get going, division rival coming in, big matchup Sunday night is all fun and that stuff, but we have to get back to football and really get our work ethic back in order here. That's what starts today. The guys came back fired up and ready to go."
As Carroll notes, the Seahawks return from their bye about as healthy as any team could reasonably expect after half a season, and among those returning to action Monday was cornerback Jeremy Lane, who practiced for the first time since sustaining serious knee and arm injuries on an interception return in Super Bowl XLIX.
Lane's return to practice leads three takeaways from Carroll's Monday press conference, which also included an update on receiver Ricardo Lockette.
1. Jeremy Lane "looked really quick and comfortable" in his return to practice.
Lane, a sixth-round pick out of Northwestern State in 2012, first made his mark on special teams, but over the past two seasons he also became Seattle's top nickel cornerback. Unfortunately both for him and the Seahawks' defense, he was injured early in their Super Bowl loss to New England and was unavailable for the first half of this season while recovering from those injuries.
Lane, who opened the season on the physically unable to perform list, returned to practice Monday, which means he now has 21 days to be added to the 53-man roster or remain on PUP for the rest of the season. While Carroll didn't rule out the possibility of Lane playing this week, given the long layoff, the Seahawks might decide to let him practice for a couple of weeks before bringing him back to game action, which would match what they did with receiver Paul Richardson, who returned to practice two weeks ago, but did not play against Dallas.
Carroll said Lane's timeline for returning to game action will be determined later, but said the cornerback "Did well" in his first practice since Super Bowl week. "He practiced in a limited fashion, he'll go more than that on Wednesday. He looked really quick and looked comfortable and all of that. He's worked really, really hard to get to this point. It's fun to see him back out there. It's been a long haul for him, of course, and it's great to get him back."
Without Lane, the Seahawks have used Marcus Burley and DeShawn Shead in the nickel role, and even used Richard Sherman there for one game, having the All-Pro left cornerback slide inside in passing situations in their season opener.
Asked what Lane brings to that position, Carroll said, "He's a really active football player, he's really quick, he's aggressive. He's an attack guy, a good blitzer, playmaker too. He can match up with anybody. He's long enough that he can match up with the bigger guys, he's quick enough to match up with the smaller guys and he's a really good nickel fit for us. Catching him on highlights in preparation for this game, you can see the things that he can do. He's running around making some plays and stuff. It'll be exciting to get him back in the competition of it."
2. The Seahawks should have almost everyone available for Sunday's game.
Left tackle Russell Okung, who missed the Dallas game with ankle injury, practiced Monday, Carroll said, and baring some sort of setback should be good to go against Arizona. Tight end Luke Willson and defensive end Cliff Avril, who both sustained ankle injuries against Dallas, should return to practice Wednesday, giving them a chance at playing Sunday.
Carroll also indicated that Paul Richardson could make his 2015 debut after missing Seattle's first eight games while recovering from offseason knee surgery. The second-year receiver, who like Lane opened the year on the PUP list, practiced prior to the Dallas game, and is now working to "find his fit in the rotation," Carroll said. "With last week when he practiced, and then the week off, he's really ready to go now. So he's really battling for playing time right now. That's a really good sign. We'll see how that goes. When we finished off with him before he got hurt, he was really figuring in and doing a lot of good stuff. He's in great shape, running as fast as the wind out here. So he looks really good, so we're really excited to see what he can do and see how he can push the other guys."
3. Carroll hopes red zone issues were a first-half problem.
The Seahawks did a lot of things well in the first half of the season, but one thing Carroll and the rest of his team would like to improve upon is their red zone production. Seattle is scoring touchdowns on just 29.4 percent of its red zone trips halfway through the season, which ranks last in the NFL, and while at times the offense has gone right over the red zone with long touchdown plays—oddly, the offense has scored more touchdowns (6) from outside the red zone than from inside of it (5)—Carroll wants to see more out of its offense when it is inside an opponent's 20-yard line.
"We'd like to leave that in the first half, if you could," Carroll said. "Offensively, we just didn't do well enough, didn't take advantage of our opportunities being down there. That's really a point of emphasis for us to turn that thing around, want to leave those numbers in the past and see if we can do something really good in the second half there."
After a bye week of rest, the Seahawks hit the IPF as a team on "Bonus Monday" to begin preparation for their return to CenturyLink Field this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.