This Seahawks team will absolutely be different from the one that produced that forgettable dud on the road against Tampa Bay.
We’ll find out Sunday night if it is a better one.
Michael Bennett is playing Sunday night against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, for the first time in six games. Four other starters also are returning from injuries to play for the Seahawks (7-3-1) against the Panthers (4-7): safety Earl Thomas, center Justin Britt, cornerback DeShawn Shead and strongside linebacker Mike Morgan (coming off injured reserve). Same with backup running back Troymaine Pope. Pope missed one game with a high-ankle sprain.
Seattle listed Bennett, its Pro Bowl defensive end, as questionable for Sunday’s showcase game against the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. Then coach Pete Carroll jokingly remarked following Friday’s practice that Bennett was “highly questionable, and he also has some injury issues.”
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Injuries are almost always Topics A, B and C on Fridays because it’s when the injury report for the Sunday games come out – and because Friday is the first time in three practices that reporters get to ask questions of Seattle’s coach.
No matter, Bennett’s going to play Sunday.
So will Thomas. He, in particular, will be a huge boost. Steven Terrell did fine filling in at free safety last weekend. But Thomas is, of course, a three-time All-Pro regarded as perhaps the best at his position. He has played 118 out of a possible 119 games – all starts – since the Seahawks drafted him in the first round in 2010.
“He did great (this week while practicing fully),” Carroll said. “He was able to do everything to show that he is ready to play.
“DeShawn Shead, too.”
On Thursday, though, Thomas said about his strained hamstring: “I’m just still battling right now. I really don’t like to talk about it because I know what’s ahead of me (to be able to play for the rest of this season). Hopefully, you know, we’ll see.”
The Seahawks lost, 14-5, without all those starters last weekend against Tampa Bay.
Thomas Rawls wasn’t quite himself against the Buccaneers, Carroll said. The lead running back had 38 yards on 12 carries and slipped multiple times on Tampa’s grass field trying to cut quickly behind zone blocks. He still was getting over getting “stoved up,” Carroll’s words, in a battering return against Philadelphia two weeks ago. Rawls had missed two months with a cracked fibula.
Could his healing mean the Seahawks will finally get their 27th-ranked rushing offense in a gear other than neutral or first? Rawls has just 120 yards on 45 carries (a 2.7-yard average) in four games this season.
“Thomas had his best … he truly had his best week,” Carroll said. “I’m really excited about that.
“I told you that it was a heavy load for him coming out of that (Eagles) game, and you could see it last week. He shows no signs at all. He looks like he’s ready to go and that’s a real good thought for us, we like that.
“Yeah, it does feel good to have guys coming back,” Carroll said.
“It feels good. These guys are pumped up and looking forward to it.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle