SEATTLE — Every day of Chris Clemons’ rehab was different. Every day brought new challenges, which are part of the grueling nine-month process for a player returning from ACL surgery.
“You wake up some days feeling great,” Clemons said, “and some days you wake up and are like, … I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it again.’ The biggest thing was just trusting in what they had me doing.”
After having ACL surgery in January, Clemons did just that and returned to game action for the first time in the Seahawks’ 45-17 victory Sunday against Jacksonville. Clemons played 16 snaps against the Jaguars and nearly all those came on third down or in obvious passing situations.
Clemons said he didn’t feel any rust, and although coach Pete Carroll slightly disagreed — “Saw just a little bit of rust,” Carroll said smiling — he thought Clemons looked good in his first game back.
“He got enough done that he’s in,” Carroll said. “He’s playing. This week we’ll get more out of him, and he’ll be close to just normal.”
In other words, expect Clemons to play more than 16 snaps this weekend against Houston.
In his limited time against Jacksonville, Clemons had at least two plays in which he generated significant pressure on Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne.
He didn’t record a sack, but he hit Henne from behind once and forced him into throwing an incompletion another time. Pro Football Focus, a website that deals in analytics, gave Clemons impressive grades for his first game back and credited him with two quarterback hurries.
Clemons is a vital part of Seattle’s defense. He led Seattle with 11.5 sacks a year ago and dominated the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football with a franchise-record four sacks.
Now he’s a big part of what the Seahawks are hoping is an improved pass rush, and his first game back signaled he might not need much time to get up to speed.
Seattle is tied for 18th in the NFL with eight sacks and is tied for 19th with 15 quarterback hits. The Seahawks ranked 20th in sacks last year with 35 and 28th with 64 quarterback hits.
Clemons, though, still is in the early stages of getting used to playing again. He missed all of the preseason while rehabbing and returned to the practice field only two weeks ago.
“Coming into that second week,” Clemons said, “I felt like I was getting to that point where I was being myself again and just feeling natural.”