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Pete Carroll says Malik McDowell may return in 2017

Seahawks head coach clarifies top draft pick’s injury status, calls McDowell’s ailment “really bad concussion”

The Seattle Seahawks have only played four games in 2017 but have already suffered some bad injury breaks.

Prospective left tackle starter George Fant blew out a knee during a preseason game and was lost for the year. Rookie sensation running back Chris Carson broke his leg during last Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts. Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril aggravated a nerve injury in his spine in the same game that could keep him out indefinitely, and even former Seahawk draft pick Quinton Jefferson—brought in this week from the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad to help reinforce depth on the defensive line with Avril out—suffered a broken hand in his first practice back with the team. Linebacker Dewey McDonald is done for the year. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise have both missed time, and of course a steady stream of training room notes like any football team.

For an organization with championship hopes but two losses already, health will be a key factor in whether Seattle is able to achieve its goals this season. With Avril and Jefferson out, depth on the defensive line is a particularly challenging matter at the moment but Friday at last offered some good news for that unit.

At least the possibility of a better diagnosis maybe later down the line.

Malik McDowell, the Seahawks’ first draft pick in April after John Schneider traded back several times into the second round, started Seattle’s parade of untimely injuries when he ran an all-terrain vehicle into the ground several weeks before training camp in July—reportedly suffering either facial fractures and/or a brain injury that has kept him out of action and was rumored to be potentially career-ending. Seattle has been coy about producing a clear account of the accident or even what kind of wounds McDowell is recovering from, leaving a shroud of mystery around the situation since the rookie interior lineman didn’t appear at the Seahawks’ first camp practices. McDowell later reported to the team and was placed on the Non-Football Injury list when the offical roster was announced. Considering the extremity of the reports, many figured McDowell would miss probably the full season at a minimum.

However Friday Pete Carroll told reporters McDowell still has a chance to play this year. Perhaps more newsworthy, Carroll more specifically pronounced McDowell’s problem, calling it “a really bad concussion” according to the Seattle Times’s Bob Condotta.

Hypothetically, McDowell’s NFI-list status means he could begin practicing with the team as soon as the week after the Seahawks’ bye following its matchup with the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday. Of course, McDowell’s eligibility to return is not necessarily as important in this case as the team doctors’ determination that he’s fully ready to return to football and out of whatever protocol a concussion of this severity requires.

Seattle engineered a trade for then-New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in September, in part to fill McDowell’s expected role, but it’s possible the more recent injuries to Avril and Jefferson sharpened the urgency to add another contributor to the front four rotation. Carroll said in August the team considers its relationship with McDowell a long-term commitment, so will presumably do what’s in the best interest both for the Michigan State product’s lifelong health and the term of the team’s investment in him beyond 2017.

The update is not exactly breaking news in that sense. Nevertheless it’s encouraging if McDowell is doing well enough for Carroll to leave open the possibility for him to come back in the later part of the current season, and certainly supports a hope that the young tackle can be ready by 2018.