After suffering a high-ankle sprain in the Seahawks' second preseason game that forced him to miss the remainder of exhibition play as well as the first four games of the regular season, tight end Nick Vannett is in line to make his NFL debut when Seattle takes on the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Taken with the second of Seattle's three third-round picks in the 2016 draft, Vannett, the No. 94 overall selection will be "dressing this week," according to head coach Pete Carroll, who said the Seahawks hope to get the Ohio State product involved in the offensive game plan.
"We're really excited to get him back, so we like him to play," Carroll said of the now-healthy Vannett following Friday's practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. "We're hoping to get him in there in a number of situations. He's been working real hard to fit in, he's been very smart about his stuff, so we don't have any reservations or any limitation on him playing."
Vannett's preseason setback derailed what had been a promising start to his stay in the League. The 6-foot-6, 257-pound rookie who Seattle initially brought in with the thought that he could be used as a blocking tight end "exceeded" expectations and "surprised" Seahawks coaches with the natural catching ability he displayed during the offseason program. He had three catches for 37 yards in the preseason before the injury occurred.
"It was unfortunate," Vannett said. "I had a lot of good momentum going my way up until it happened. I've never really had anything as serious as this before, so I've never been away from football for six, seven weeks like it was. But I just had to keep a good mindset and just grind through the whole rehab stuff and just get healthy. That's what I did and I'm back now and I'm ready to get out there on the field and do what I came here to do, and that's play ball."
Vannett said he was the team's "biggest cheerleader" during the nearly two months he spent on the sideline, where he did his best to stay positive and mentally in tune to the action on the field.
"I think I did a good job of that," Vannett said. "I was staying in the playbook and mentally I felt like I was keeping up with everybody. Now that I'm physically back, I'm ready to go."
Vannett is one of four tight ends on the team's 53-man roster, including Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, and Brandon Williams. But without a player listed at fullback, Willson has been filling some of those duties, and Carroll called Vannett "a real well-versed player" who "is preparing to do some of that stuff" too, meaning it's possible that all four players could see action against the Falcons.
"I've been waiting for this day for a while," Vannett said. "It seems like I've been out with this injury for a while and now that I'm finally back healthy I'm excited to suit up and finally run out of that tunnel for the first time."
The Seahawks and Falcons have battled 16 times, including playoffs, since 1976, with Seattle owning 10 victories. The two teams meet again this Saturday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.