One very familiar face was with the defense in their Monday training camp session as middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu returned to action for the first time in nearly two weeks since injuring a hamstring.
Tatupu, who didn’t play in the preseason opener Saturday, was back in his middle linebacker spot in most of the team drills Monday, though he was still kept out of some of the 7-on-7 work.
“Moving around felt good,” Tatupu said. “They’re bringing me along slowly, but it felt good.”
Coach Pete Carroll said it was a welcome sight, having his former USC standout back calling the defensive signals.
“Oh yeah. We’ve been waiting,” Carrol said. “We’re going to bring him back slowly and make sure he feels real strong and healthy, but it’s great to have Lofa back on the field.”
Tatupu missed 11 games last season with a torn pectoral muscle, so it’s critical to get him back in the mix, especially with a linebacking crew already minus outside linebacker Leroy Hill (sprained knee).
Tatupu worked on Monday with Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne, which was the first time those three expected starters were together since the first day of camp.
And once again, just as when he was sidelined the previous 12 days, Tatupu was the last one out on the field signing autographs for fans long after practice ended at the VMAC.
Where does Balmer fit?: The Seahawks didn’t make a roster move to clear a spot yet for Balmer, who was acquired by trade from the 49ers earlier Monday, since he won’t take the field until he passes his physical tomorrow.
But Carroll said the former first-round draft pick fits a mold similar to the one held by Red Bryant, a big guy who can play strong-side defensive end (or what the Seahawks call the five-technique spot) or slide inside to play defensive tackle.
Carroll said the effectiveness of Bryant at the defensive end position is one of the reasons the team pursued Balmer.
Carroll feels Balmer is a completely different player than Lawrence Jackson, who is viewed now as more of the “Leo” pass-rushing defensive end position currently occupied by Chris Clemons.
At 315 pounds, Balmer brings some more beef to a line the Seahawks are trying to make bigger. As for his baggage, having walked out of 49ers camp last week?
“We did a lot of homework on him to understand about his background,” Carroll said. “We had good information and what’s happened is in the past as far as we’re concerned. We feel real good about him getting in here and starting to help us right away.”
How about LoJack?: Jackson didn’t practice again Monday as he continues recovering from a hamstring issue that has sidelined him almost the entire camp.
“We need to get Lawrence back out here,” Carroll said. “We need him. He’s very close to getting back. He ran really well at the end of last week. (There’s) still a complication with getting him back, but he’s getting close.”
Also sitting out practice because of minor injuries were defensive linemen Kevin Vickerson, Nick Reed, Ricky Foley and Jonathan Lewis, as well as veteran offensive tackle Ray Willis, who is suffering from a knee problem that will require arthroscopic knee surgery.
Willis is expected to miss at least the rest of the preseason and it wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up on injured reserve if doctors find a significant problem with a knee that has been bothering him throughout camp.
No Housh: Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was absent Monday because of a “family situation,” according to Carroll, who said he didn’t know if the veteran would be back by Tuesday or not.
Thurmond shines again: Rookie cornerback Walter Thurmond, who has had an impressive camp and played well Saturday, was at it again Monday with a fully-extended diving interception of a Matt Hasselbeck pass in the flat.
All this while still wearing a knee brace as he returns from major-knee surgery that wiped out most of his senior season at Oregon.
“He just continues to make things happen,” Carroll said. “He’s just an active, physical kid.”