Seattle Seahawks

Simon ready to compete for Seahawks starting CB job

Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, right, runs into the end zone for a touchdown after a catch as Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon defends during the first half of NFL Super Bowl 49 in February.
Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell, right, runs into the end zone for a touchdown after a catch as Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon defends during the first half of NFL Super Bowl 49 in February. The Associated Press

Leave it to glib Richard Sherman to describe this third exhibition game for what it really is.

“It’s a glorified practice,” he said this week.

For him, anyway. He’s an All-Pro cornerback at the top of his game and the league. For him the Seahawks’ preseason game Saturday at San Diego is next to nothing — even with it being Sherman’s first game since playing in February’s Super Bowl, after sitting the first two exhibition games to rest a strained hip flexor.

Tharold Simon is also a cornerback playing his first game since the Super Bowl.

For Simon, this game plus next Thursday’s preseason finale at home against Oakland are anything but “glorified practices.” Simon is trying to seize the starting cornerback job Cary Williams has had since he signed this offseason as a free agent from Philadelphia.

Now fully healthy, Simon thinks the competition’s still on.

He has these two games before the Sept. 13 opener at St. Louis to prove it.

“Oh, yeah, these two are very important games,” Simon said. “Getting in there, getting a few snaps — they already told me I wasn’t going to get in there too much — (I’m) just trying to get some of that rust knocked off. It’s just going out there trying to compete for a starting job.”

Simon will backup Williams in San Diego. But Williams, whom Seattle signed for $18 million over four years days after former starter Byron Maxwell signed with the Eagles in March, hasn’t exactly shut down everyone he’s faced in practice or two exhibition games this month.

“It’s a competition out there,” Simon said. “Cary’s been out there for a while. He knows what’s going on. He’s doing everything right. We love him out there.

“I mean, it’s still competition. ... Next man up.”

Offseason shoulder surgery after getting burned for four touchdowns in two playoff games, half of those in the Super Bowl, hasn’t reduced Simon’s confidence.

“I knew ‘Max’ wasn’t going to stay here,” Simon said. “I was like — no matter what, whoever they bring in — I was like, ‘The only way someone is probably going to start over me is if it’s (Darrelle) Revis.’”

Simon chuckled at that.

“I mean sooner or later I’ll be ready to go,” he said.

Simon is in his third season since Seattle drafted him in the third round out of LSU. He has the height, length and physical tools Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard covet in their cover guys.

But last season, his first playing after foot injuries wrecked his rookie season of 2013, Simon was prone to bonehead penalties at awful times.

Such as in last October’s loss at St. Louis. Simon banged into Rams receiver Brian Quick before the ball arrived on a third and 4. The 16-yard penalty extended St. Louis’ drive. A few plays later Simon grabbed the opponents’ face mask while teammate K.J. Wright was completing a tackle for a loss that would have forced the Rams into third and 25. Simon’s foul gave St. Louis a first down at the Seattle 12 instead, which lead to the Rams’ second touchdown to take a 14-3 lead in St. Louis’ eventual 28-26 victory. For all the errors the Seahawks made that day, they could have won had Simon not been so grabby and they had they held St. Louis to a field goal on that drive.

In January’s playoffs, Carolina’s Cam Newton targeted Simon for two touchdown passes but Seattle overcame those to win. Simon said Thursday he played that game with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, for which he had the offseason surgery.

He sat out the following week’s NFC Championship Game. But when nickelback Jeremy Lane broke his arm and shredded his knee ligament early in the Super Bowl, Maxwell went inside to nickel and an ailing Simon took Maxwell’s right cornerback spot. That was because Marcus Burley, the backup nickel who had played there at the start of last season when Lane was injured, was left on the inactive list before the game.

That proved to be a disastrous decision for Seattle. Tom Brady and New England targeted Simon immediately upon his entrance in the first quarter.

“Oh, yeah, (I knew),” Simon said. “The first play, right away, they came after me. I stopped them. But then after that they kept coming.

“And,” Simon chuckled, “kept coming.”

“The saying here is ‘Next man, best man,’” he said. “I didn’t show it that night ... but short-term memory. You’ve got to move on and just go play ball now.”

Carroll said Thursday he will focus on his offensive line first Saturday. The line has starters playing its second consecutive game in three new positions: Drew Nowak at center, Garry Gilliam at right tackle and former right tackle Justin Britt at left guard. The coach will also be focused on whether Dion Bailey or DeShawn Shead is emerging as the starting strong safety to fill in while Kam Chancellor’s seemingly endless holdout goes on; Friday was its 29th day.

Carroll also will be watching the 6-foot-3, 202-pound Simon with keen interest.

“He is competing to play, yeah,” the coach said. “He hasn’t had much of a chance yet. But we know him as a dominant, physical guy out there. We really like him.”

If not to start in two weeks, to contribute heavily again this season. And, the Seahawks hope, with better results than last year.

“If he can get ready to play football and do a good job the next couple weeks,” Carroll said, “then that just makes us stronger and allows us some flexibility in some matchups that we might be able to take advantage of.”

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com

@gbellseattle

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