SEATTLE – After two seasons lost largely to knee injuries, James Carpenter is finally healthy and ready to prove he was worthy of the Seattle Seahawks selecting him with a first-round draft pick.
The potential is obvious.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 321 pounds, Carpenter offers the kind of size no other lineman on Seattle's roster does. No one can physically impose his will on an opposing player quite like Carpenter can when healthy. But knee injuries have reduced that potential to merely a massive tease through his first two seasons in the league.
"He's quick as a cat. Big dude, too ... strong. But I don't know. It's almost been two years minus a couple snaps last year that he wasn't really healthy for. So we'll see," center Max Unger said.
Carpenter feels he's finally ready to prove what he can be. He says he's 100-percent healthy and no longer has worries over the strength of his injured knee.
"I've been hurt both years so I plan on playing this whole season this year," Carpenter said. "That's all I've got to prove is trying to get my respect from my teammates and stuff back. That's why I'm working hard now."
Carpenter was selected by the Seahawks in the first round in 2011. Seattle originally intended on Carpenter becoming their long-term answer at right tackle. He started 11 games there as a rookie before tearing the ACL in his knee during a non-contract drill in practice.
The injury lingered into last season as Carpenter was placed on the physically unable to perform list prior to training camp. Seattle also decided to change their plans for Carpenter as they elected to move him to left guard. He had been a left tackle at Alabama and felt more comfortable on that side of center. The team also thought he'd be more effective as an in-line blocker than in space on the edge of the line.
Carpenter remained on the PUP list throughout the preseason before somewhat surprisingly being kept on the Seahawks' 53-man roster for the start of the regular season. Carpenter was healthy enough to be back in the lineup by Week 4 and started against the St. Louis Rams at guard. A concussion forced him to miss two more games midseason before another injury to his knee ended his season after just seven games played.
Tom Cable, the Seahawks' offensive line coach, still saw enough from Carpenter last season to feel confident in the switch to guard.
"The issue is getting him — he's a little bit like the new kids because he's been out so long — to catch up," Cable said. "He's doing fine. He's doing a really nice job of catching up with the older guys. Now that the injury is behind him it can be all about football again and he should come along pretty quick."
It's the first time in three years Carpenter has been on the field for the start of training camp. He missed the start of his rookie campaign in a brief contract holdout before the knee injury forced him to miss all of last year's camp.
Carpenter has been forced to watch his teammates practice from the sidelines frequently all too often. Just being able to be back out on a football field has been long overdue.
"I felt great out there. Pretty rusty but I'm just glad I'm out here working with the team again," Carpenter said.
Carpenter has been rotating in with the first-team offensive line throughout the first four days of training camp and is battling with Paul McQuistan to earn the starting job. The battle for both guard positions are one of the few battles for starting jobs on the line for the Seahawks in camp.
Head coach Pete Carroll just wants to see consistency — both in his play and his ability to be on the practice field every day.
"I think that a month from now if he's still working hard he will be a monster coming off of the football," Carroll said. "There's no doubt about him. He's physical, he commands a presence that is exactly what you're looking for, and so if he can fit in and help us that would be a great boost for us."
Notes: FB Michael Robinson returned to practice Sunday after missing the previous two days with a sore ankle. ... T Michael Bowie and DE Cliff Avril sat out practice with undisclosed ailments. Avril has missed time over the offseason with a foot injury. ... DT Jesse Williams (knee) and LB Heath Farwell (back) also remained sidelined. ... Seattle signed RB Ray Holley and released WR Justin Veltung.