Football always has been and always will be a sport about injury and attrition.
So the news Tuesday was both good and bad for the Seattle Seahawks after a first-round bye in the NFL playoff draw: They get back center Max Unger but lose defensive tackle Jordan Hill.
Unger is the Seahawks’ version of the Carolina Panthers’ Ryan Kalil: a savvy, cerebral offensive lineman who is a quasi-coach on the field. He missed the past three games with ankle and knee injuries.
Coach Pete Carroll said it’s quantifiable how much more productive his team is in the running game when Unger plays. Carroll said he knows why.
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“He’s an expert in looks and calls,” Carroll said. “We’re just a little more experienced with him in there. It’s a wonderful dimension for us. It helps us be right more.”
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have lost Hill, third on the team with 5 1/2 sacks this season, to a calf pull. Carroll hopes the return of Demarcus Dobbs can compensate for Hill’s absence, but the Seahawks signed free agent Landon Cohen this week as insurance and depth going into Saturday night’s playoff game against the Carolina Panthers.
“Landon is a very active player,” Carroll said of Cohen, who is on his seventh NFL team. “We had our eye on him all year. Because of his activity he’s similar to how Jordan plays.”
No giveaways allowed: Carroll and Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford would have an animated conversation on the self-destructive quality of turnovers.
Clifford has kept the Bobcats/Hornets first or second in the NBA in fewest turnovers committed. That’s precisely Carroll’s approach to winning in the NFL. His team enters Saturday’s playoff game a plus-10 for the season in takeaways-to-giveaways.
“I’ve tried to emphasize this better than anybody in the world since I’ve been a head coach,” Carroll said.
“I think it’s that crucial: How many creative ways can you bring that point back to the surface? Every time you snap the football, the ball is available (to the other team). We keep working at it.”