When the Seahawks formed their game plan to beat the New York Jets last week, C.J. Spiller was absolutely not in it.
He wasn’t even in the same state. Heck, he wasn’t even in the same time zone.
Up until four days before Seattle’s latest win, the 29-year-old running back was at home in South Carolina. He was in his second week as a free agent after the New Orleans Saints released him unexpectedly. He was working out at Clemson, where his college career began a decade ago.
“Sunday? I went to church,” Spiller said, referring to Sept. 25. “And I was on my couch watching NFL football.”
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His local South Carolina Fox television affiliate wasn’t carrying the Seahawks-49ers regional late game Sept. 25.
“I’m not sure what game I was watching, to be honest,” he said. “It wasn’t Seattle.”
It is now. This past Sunday, Spiller found himself in an end zone of MetLife Stadium. He was holding the ball he snared on a pass from Russell Wilson, the first touchdown that propelled the Seahawks to a 27-17 win over the Jets and a 3-1 record during this week’s bye.
A little different than being on his couch in South Carolina the Sunday before, channel surfing and hanging out with his 10-year-old daughter, Shania.
“Like Shania Twain,” he said with a proud grin when asked for the spelling of his daughter’s name.
The timing of his arrival, not only onto the roster but into the offense, last weekend was exquisite. The Seahawks were learning lead back Thomas Rawls will miss another four weeks with a cracked fibula.
Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Rawls has “a crack, a hairline fracture, and that takes usually four to six weeks.” Last season’s NFL leader in yards per carry as a splash rookie was hurt Sept. 18 at Los Angeles, three quarters of play into his return from a broken ankle in December. Rawls could be out until at least the Week 8 game against the Buffalo Bills in Seattle on Nov. 9.
In addition, rookie C.J. Prosise – whom Seattle drafted in the third round in May to do the job Spiller did against the Jets – missed his third consecutive game last weekend because of a cracked bone in his hand. Carroll said Prosise may remain out past Seattle’s next game, Oct. 16 at home against Atlanta (3-1).
Carroll may not have been as willing to concede that had Spiller not arrived so splendidly.
Nine snaps. Two carries, including one for 13 yards on a third-down draw. Three catches, including the twisting touchdown between two defenders that got the Seahawks going.
The injuries to Rawls and Prosise and Spiller’s instant production are why the former Pro Bowl back is going to be more prominent after this bye and into November than the Seahawks could have imagined just last week.
Spiller signed a minimum contract for the rest of this season Sept. 28. He only knew a portion of the playbook and none of the pass protections after just two full practices last Thursday and Friday. But one of those plays was Wilson’s pass that found Spiller two yards deep in the end zone, before Jets linebacker Darron Lee could get to him.
Left guard Mark Glowinski was the first Seahawk to greet Spiller. The big lineman lifted the veteran by his chest like he’d known him for years, not days.
“Just something we worked on the two days that I was here,” Spiller said. “We talked about some good one-on-one matchups, and we got the look that we were looking for. It was up to me to win that one-on-one battle. And I could see Russ’ eyes, and we connected. A great play at the right moment.”
The right moment in more ways than one. General manager John Schneider told Seattle’s 710-AM before Sunday’s game the Seahawks had been in contact with Spiller’s agent once he was released by the Saints on Sept. 13. Spiller also had tryouts with Green Bay and the Jets.
“I’ve talked to you guys before about how we’re always in every deal. So when he was released, we called, talked to his agent. He was going to go to Green Bay and then New York,” Schneider said, calling Spiller a “legitimate third-down back.”
“He committed to those teams first and then he was going to come visit us. For one reason or another, he did not sign with those teams. So we were able to talk to him on Tuesday night (the day Spiller visited the Jets) and get him in on Wednesday, got him physicalled. He met with the staff and everything. And we just decided to just go for it instead of waiting until Monday.”
Said Carroll, who tried to recruit Spiller to USC a decade ago before he chose Clemson, “I don’t know a whole lot more than we knew going in, but he was extremely impressive to us in practice, in preparation through the week, the fact that he can play in just two days, he showed up Thursday, was a great statement.
“It’s great to have him and he’s a real dimension. He’s a very, very fast, very difficult guy to tackle, to stay with. He runs great routes and he’s got great hands, too. The fact that he’s smart and all that, that’s the kind of guy we like to add this time of year.
“We’re very fortunate to get him.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle