RENTON — L.J. Collier wasn’t in pads at Seahawks practice Thursday.
But he carried some off the field anyway, fulfilling the usual duty of a rookie of carting equipment of some of the team’s veterans into the locker room following practice.
It was a sign that life may be getting somewhat back to normal for the Seahawks’ first-round pick, who has not practiced since July 30, when he suffered what coach Pete Carroll referred to as “a badly sprained ankle.”
Collier has rarely been seen on the field since. But on Thursday, the defensive end from TCU had his jersey on and went through some conditioning drills during the portion of practice open to media, and then was seen carrying off some equipment after it was over.
Still, it’s unclear exactly when Collier will return.
On Wednesday, coach Pete Carroll said Collier is “doing a lot of stuff” but is not quite ready to do full running where he can “change direction.”
The Seahawks finish the preseason a week from Thursday against the Raiders at CenturyLink Field.
So it seems a long shot that Collier will play before the Sept. 8 regular season opener, marking the third straight year that Seattle’s top pick has run into injury issues before the season. The top pick in 2017, Malik McDowell, never played after suffering injuries in an ATV accident, and the first pick in 2018, running back Rashaad Penny, played just one preseason game before breaking a finger in practice.
Collier’s absence also highlights what has been a somewhat halting beginning for Seattle’s 2019 draft class, which was one of the largest in team history with 11 players. Seven of those were taken in the first four rounds, which heightened expectations that the team could get a substantial and immediate impact from its rookie class. But if the Seahawks had played a game Thursday, it’s likely at least five of that class — including the top three picks and four of the top six — would have been unlikely to take part.
The good news is that, as far it appears at the moment, anyway, none of the injuries is overly serious, especially to the top three picks: Collier, safety Marquise Blair and receiver DK Metcalf.
Carroll altered some of the team’s usual training camp schedule hoping to get the rookies prepared to contribute as much as possible as early as possible, as well as try to up their conditioning to help avoid minor issues. Specifically, the Seahawks had the rookies report a week before the veterans, something they had not done since Carroll took over in 2010, with the rookies usually reporting at the same time as the vets or a day before.
Here’s a look at each of the Seahawks’ 2019 draft picks and their current stats, in order of their drafting:
♦ Defensive end L.J. Collier (first round): As noted, he has not practiced in more than three weeks. The team hoped he would play substantially from Day 1 at the team’s strongside defensive end spot and also inside in the nickel. Thursday showed maybe that can still happen by Week 1, even if missing the bulk of training camp figures to mean he’ll need some time to get fully acclimated.
♦ Safety Marquise Blair (second round): The former Utah star generated a lot of discussion with an event-filled opener against Denver. But Carroll also said later that Blair was still in the process of earning the team’s trust, especially in showing he would run the defense as called.
♦ Wide receiver DK Metcalf (second round): After playing 26 snaps in the opener and making one catch for 8 yards, the highly-hyped Ole Miss product missed the second game and had knee surgery Tuesday.
♦ Linebacker Cody Barton (third round): Barton battled a groin injury early in camp but is now full-go and has played 48 snaps in two games with nine tackles, tied for the second-most on the team behind the 13 of Austin Calitro.
♦ Wide receiver Gary Jennings (fourth round): Jennings battled a hamstring injury in the spring but is also full-go now — he’s played 51 snaps in two games. But Jennings has yet to make a catch on three targets.
♦ Offensive lineman Phil Haynes (fourth round): The former Wake Forest star worked at times with the first team at left guard during some of the offseason program. But Haynes has yet to practice having been played on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list prior to camp after having sports hernia surgery.
♦ Safety Ugo Amadi (fourth round): The former Oregon star has been one of the preseason standouts with a team-high-tying three tackles on special teams and also making two tackles with a pass defenses in 53 snaps in two games.
♦ Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven (fifth round): The former UW star also missed the team’s offseason program after having sports hernia surgery and was limited early in camp. But he’s also back full go now, playing 40 snaps against the Vikings.
after being held to 15 in the opener against Denver. He has six tackles in two games.