Everything was going according to plan for rookie guard Germain Ifedi. The first-round pick out of Texas A&M had come into his first season with the Seahawks and impressed teammates and coaches, doing enough to earn the starting job at right guard.
But then, just days before what was supposed to be his first NFL game, Ifedi went down with an ankle injury in practice, an injury that kept him out of the first three games of the season.
"It was tough, but you have to take it for what it is, you have to take it as a learning experience, a growing experience," Ifedi said Wednesday before taking part in practice. "It's just another challenge, you're going to have those type of challenges. I just thank God it wasn't worse and that I was able to get back to practicing and doing all these things after just a couple of weeks when it's usually a longer-lasting injury. So you just take it for what it is. You don't get too down. If you start getting down, you start getting out of your rhythm. You've just got to stay up and attack the rehab, and I think I did a good job at that."
Now, Ifedi is preparing for his shot to make his Seahawks debut, albeit a bit delayed. His status for Sunday's game against the New York Jets remains uncertain, but the fact that he is practicing this early in the week means he at least has a chance to play in his first regular season game.
"I'm real excited," Ifedi said. "It's going to be a good experience (if I can play)."
Ifedi noted that a game against the Jets means, "New York, big lights, all those things," but he also knows that treating any one game as bigger than another is frowned upon in these parts.
"You don't make it too big, make it too small, you just play football," Ifedi said. "At the end of the day, you're just playing football when the ball is snapped."
And if Ifedi is on the field when the ball is snapped Sunday, the Seahawks are confident they'll see him build upon very promising play in the preseason. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made it clear that Ifedi will be a starter when he's ready to play, and is excited to see what Ifedi can bring to the line.
"We're so pumped about everything he had done to get this thing started," Carroll said. "I know he's really fired up about it and all, and we're looking forward to adding him in."
Following Wednesday's practice, in which Ifedi was limited in his reps, offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable said Ifedi's first day back went well.
"He's kind of on a pitch count, kind of grow as we go, but he looks fine," Cable said. "He certainly was able to do enough in his rehab to get him to this point, so we'll just keep upping his work volume each day."
The biggest challenge to coming back, Cable said, will be Ifedi finding his rhythm and timing with the rest of the line after three weeks off.
"He has done a really fantastic job of staying connected to it in terms of the game plans the weeks he missed, learning it," Cable said. "I expect that mentally he's in pretty good shape."
Ifedi feels like he's "picking up where we left off" rather than starting over, in part because, as Cable noted, he stayed involved in the mental side of the preparation the past three weeks.
"I really feel like I stayed mentally in-tune with the game, really engaged in what we were doing," Ifedi said. "You've got to stay in the game. Obviously I'm not getting the physical reps, but the mental reps are just as important."
The Seahawks returned to practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday to begin preparing for their game against the New York Jets.