Rashaad Penny is expected to return from injured reserve for the Seahawks' Monday night game against the Saints, and the fourth-year running back is returning to action feeling like he has something to prove.
A first-round pick in the 2018 draft, Penny looked to be hitting his stride midway through his second season when a torn ACL cut short that campaign, while also causing him to miss most of the 2020 season. Penny came into camp this year lighter and feeling fresh, ready to get back to his pre-injury form, but then a calf injury in the season-opener landed him on injured reserve.
Now Penny is back, and with Chris Carson on injured reserve and with Alex Collins' status unclear this week due to a groin injury, he is ready to show the type of player he can be, not just in terms of production but in being able to stay on the field.
"It's just all about me being available," he said. "That's the two biggest things I've been preaching the whole offseason, being available and being consistent. You have that type of career. I feel like it's just a slow start for me. I'm still young. I'm fresh. I'm ready to go. Now is the chance for me to show it… I've got to be available, and I've got to show that I'm back and who they drafted me as."
The Seahawks drafted Penny as an explosive, home-run threat, and before the ACL injury he was starting to look like exactly that, rushing for 203 yards with three total touchdowns in his final two games before the injury. Making his recent injury history all the more frustrating for Penny is that, throughout his high school and college career, he was never injured. Seahawks general manager John Schneider has even said in past interviews that Penny had one of the best medical grades they had ever given a prospect, but there are no sure things in such a physical sport, especially at a position as violent as running back.
"I've never been hurt a day in my life," he said of his career pre-ACL injury. "It sucks because I've never had that type of test, so I never knew what it would come with or what would happen. During that time, I leaned on a lot of family and friends, teammates, and coaches. That played a huge role. Me waking up knowing that I've got two nephews that love me so much. Knowing that they know I love football and whatever to do to get back on the field. That's all I just give my thanks to. They played a huge role into me actually being motivated, getting up every day. I love this game and I want to do everything I can so they can see me play, and my family and friends. I've never missed any time before, so this is all still new to me."
The unfortunate reality for an NFL player who has dealt with multiple injuries is that a certain number of fans will turn on them for suffering injuries that are usually entirely out of their control. Penny works incredibly hard, and he trained specifically with staying healthy in mind this offseason, yet here is in his fourth season with fans upset with him or calling him injury-prone.
"I just feel like people don't know what we actually go through," Penny said. "I think people forget we're human sometimes, honestly. That's no fault to anybody, that's people's jobs, but people forget we're human. So I just try to shut as much noise out and just continue to focus on what I can do. I wake up every day and be like, 'All right, I've got to have a great day today and make sure I do all the right things to have a great day.' It's a plan for me. Some people don't understand, and that's fine. That's why, now that I'm available, I can get to show that again."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that the plan is for Penny not just to make his return from IR, but to have a significant role in the game, and depending on Collins' health, Penny's return could be coming at the perfect time.
"I'm really excited to get Rashaad on the field and playing for us," Carroll said. "He's gunning to go, he's ready, this is the right time for him to come roaring back. I'm hoping he'll have a chance to be a big factor in the game."
And however much the Seahawks need to use Penny in the running game on Monday, he'll be ready.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm revved up. I'm excited."
The Seahawks face the Saints for Week 5 of the 2022 season at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Take a look back at photos from the past games between the two teams.