Impressive Seahawks rookie Ken Walker out indefinitely, but Rashaad Penny returns full go

·3 min read

Now impressive rookie Ken Walker is out.

Welcome back, Rashaad Penny. Truly.

Walker is out indefinitely. The Seahawks discovered after the running back started and played the first half of their preseason opener at Pittsburgh Saturday that the rookie second-round draft choice has a hernia.

“Ken’s got a little hernia thing that he’s working on, and we’ve got to get through that,” coach Pete Carroll said following Tuesday’s practice for Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears at Lumen Field (ESPN, 5 p.m.) “I don’t know what to tell you yet, but it’s something that we can attend to and all that.

“We’ve just got to make sure that he’s OK, by the opener. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

That’s Sept. 12, at home against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks’ final of three preseason games is Aug. 26 at Dallas.

So it continues at the sport’s most brutal position. The average career life span of an NFL running back: less than three full seasons.

The Seahawks drafted Walker this spring when they realized lead back Chris Carson was going to have to retire at age 27 following neck fusion surgery during last season — and because Penny has had eight injuries and is yet to play a full season in his four years in the NFL.

Penny practiced fully in position drills and 11-on-11 scrimmaging for the first time since he got a slight groin injury last week. He didn’t play last weekend in Pittsburgh.

Walker started for him. He had five rushes for 19 yards. He also had one reception for 11 yards. Quarterback Geno Smith recognized a Steelers blitz on the first play of a drive in the second quarter and put on swing pass onto the running back’s hands in the left flat. He then decisively ran for the first down.

Rookie running back Ken Walker has impressed coach Pete Carroll and his Seahawks with his skill in the passing game, catching and blocking. It’s something he didn’t have to do -- and didn’t do well -- while rushing for big-time yards in college at Michigan State.
Rookie running back Ken Walker has impressed coach Pete Carroll and his Seahawks with his skill in the passing game, catching and blocking. It’s something he didn’t have to do -- and didn’t do well -- while rushing for big-time yards in college at Michigan State.

Carroll, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and running backs coach Chad Morton have been impressed with Walker’s practices and play in the pass game this month. Catching and pass blocking were two things Walker rarely did as a rampaging rusher for Michigan State. He wasn’t very good at it when he did do it.

Particularly blocking.

The April day the Seahawks drafted Walker in the second round, Morton got on the otherwise celebratory phone call Carroll and John Schneider made to the new rookie and told him he better learn to pass block if he wanted to play this season for Seattle.

Walker has impressed in one-on-one pass blocking drills in training camp. He has buried his shoulder into charging defensive ends and linebackers and often driven them far past the quarterback to maintain a solid passing pocket.

Now he’s likely out almost a month, until, the Seahawks hope, their opening game.

The talk about Walker’s pass blocking and now his injury mirrors what happened to Penny at about this same in his first NFL training camp with the Seahawks, as the team’s first-round pick.

Penny had people questioning his pass-protection skills after he rarely did it while leading the nation in rushing with more than 2,000 yards for San Diego State in 2017. On Aug. 14, 2018, Penny broke a bone in his hand pass blocking in a drill.

He returned from the injury to play in week one that year — also against the Broncos.