To a pessimist, losing two running backs to injury in last week's game is cause for serious concern. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, however, is not a pessimist. Far from it, in fact. So while Carroll would love to have C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope available to his team this week, rather than dwell on what his team is missing, the always-optimistic Carroll is instead excited about what he might see from running backs Alex Collins and George Farmer.
The Seahawks have had their depth tested this season, and so far responded well, and this week they'll get a good look at Collins, who up to this point has been used very sparingly, and Farmer, who will make his Seahawks debut after being promoted off the practice squad Wednesday.
"These opportunities are so special for us, to have guys be called on to step up," Carroll said. "If they step up and they do well, like we count on them doing, we get better and it helps us. You could look at it like, 'What are you going to do with a new guy coming in?' I look at it like it's a challenge for us to improve and include our depth in our mindset that they can play and contribute. They'll step up, they always do, but this is a really good for us and hopefully we'll show that by the way these guys play."
Collins, a fifth-round pick out of Arkansas, has thus far seen limited playing time, carrying 10 times for 19 yards and a touchdown. That limited workload has been an adjustment for a player who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for three straight years in college. This week, however, Collins should see by far his most playing time of the year, serving as Seattle's No. 2 back behind Thomas Rawls.
"I wish (Prosise and Pope) a speedy recovery, you don't wish that on anybody, but I'm very excited to show what I'm capable of," Collins said. "I work hard every day in practice, and I just want to display the hard work for everybody to see.
"It's different. You go from being the guy and getting all the carries to rotating with some of the best guys in the world. It's definitely bettering because I get to learn from these guys, these veterans, and pick up stuff for my game. But it definitely works on your patience waiting your turn. You just keep working hard behind the scenes until it's time to show your capabilities."
That work behind the scenes hasn't gone unnoticed by coaches even if it hasn't resulted in a lot of playing time or carries.
"Alex has worked really hard to get in shape," Carroll said. "He's kind of reconditioned himself. He looks much better than he did in the offseason when we were getting ready and even in camp. I think he's found a new level of conditioning that really suits him well, he looks quick and explosive. He's practiced great for a long time. I visited with him (Wednesday) reminding him that this is a great opportunity for him and that he has worked really hard for it. He's ready and he's prepared. He can play all facets of the game for us, he can play in first, second, third down, all that stuff. Run all the routes we need to run, all of that. He's done a really nice job in preparation… It's his time, it's his opportunity."
Added offensive line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable: "I think he's in shape, I think he understands. I think he's practicing the right tempo… I think his progression has come to a point where the opportunity has presented itself to him, and he has a chance to make good with it."
Farmer, meanwhile, will be making an NFL debut that a lot of people figured was an inevitability back when he was one of the top wide receiver recruits in the country at Junipero Serra High School in Southern California. Farmer's career at USC didn't go quite as planned due to numerous injuries, including a torn ACL, and even a health scare caused by a brown recluse spider bite. After going undrafted last year, Farmer signed with Dallas, then later with Seattle, at which point he was moved to cornerback. Farmer spent part of last season with the Seahawks on the practice squad, then signed a future contract in the offseason. He moved from cornerback to running back in training camp, but ended up on injured reserve before the start of the season with a foot injury. Farmer was later released with an injury settlement, then signed to Seattle's practice squad earlier this month after recovering from that injury. It has been a long and interesting road for Farmer to get to his NFL debut, but he has no regrets about how things have played out.
"It has been quite a long journey, starting from early in my college career and coming up to now," Farmer said. "I just look back at it and I wouldn't change anything. I'm thankful for every moment. My journey up to this point has made me a lot of who I am and understanding how things work. I wouldn't change anything. I'm pretty satisfied with how things went and the hard work I put in… Life is unpredictable. You've got to know how to weather adversity and overcome it. That's what I've focused on mostly."
Few people are more excited to see what Farmer can do that Carroll, who recruited Farmer before leaving USC for Seattle in 2010.
"George has been my special project for some time now," Carroll said. "He's played a few different positions, and that's because he's such a talented athlete. He's a really good competitor. He has a good mind for it, he's handled the things that we've done with him. All along, when we drafted C.J. (Prosise), we looked at him and said George can do the same things that he could do. We'll see if that works out. We really like the player, and I think you're going to see he has a lot of versatility."
That versatility, and Carroll's comparison to Prosise, another former receiver, points to Farmer perhaps filling a third-down running back role, one that requires pass-catching ability, among other things. Though if Farmer is going to take on that role, he'll have to show he can handle the pass-protection part of the job.
"We have to see," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The protection thing is obviously a big area for him, and he's made great strides in that. He has the athletic ability to do all the same things that C.J. can do, but it's an important part of it to be able to stand in there and have an understanding of it, but then physically be able to do it as well. He's shown us that, we're not scared to put him in there, so he's shown us that we can do it. When we get into the heat of the moment, he'll get those opportunities to make that known to us.
"Coach (Carroll) really kind of kept this guy with us for a long time. He loves the athlete that he is, he loves the speed, the hands. All those things. He's done it before. It's not foreign to him to be put back there, and he's learning everything. He knows how to take a hand off, he knows how to run routes, he knows how to read it, he has had those protections, so the transition will be seamless."
In their all-time regular-season series, the Seahawks and Buccaneers have faced off 12 times with the Seahawks leading the series 8-4. The two teams will play again this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.