Although he was focused on a specific play, Seattle Seahawks assistant defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel could have been talking about the 2013 season when he told Walter Thurmond, “It’s time to go,” during training camp drills Monday.
With starting cornerback Brandon Browner getting some rest, Thurmond took the majority of reps with the first-unit defense, making a handful of impressive plays.
“I felt great today,” Thurmond said. “My legs are there. I had a good talk with Coach Manuel, to get me some more confidence and stuff like that, and just really to try and finish plays.
“Even when the ball’s not coming to me, I just want to finish everything. So I took that type of mindset today, got some balls thrown my way and was able to make some plays.”
While Thurmond has always been considered a starting-caliber cornerback, a litany of injuries
limited him to playing in 22 games in his first three seasons with Seattle.
Thurmond battled back from reconstructive knee surgery during his senior season at the University of Oregon and was a fourth-round selection by the Seahawks in the 2010 draft. After extensive rehab, Thurmond made it onto the field his rookie season, playing in 14 games, including a start at cornerback against Arizona on Oct. 24, 2010.
Thurmond, who will turn 26 on Monday, finished with 37 tackles and seven pass deflections his rookie season.
In 2011, the Seahawks traded Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati during training camp, opening the door for Thurmond to win the starting job opposite Marcus Trufant. But it was Browner who earned the nod. Thurmond went on to play in six games that season, including three starts, but his season ended when he broke his leg in October against Cleveland.
He re-broke his leg in March 2012 and needed surgery. He was on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for the first nine weeks of the regular season while rehabbing the injury.
Thurmond eventually played in two games last season, with one start against Arizona. But after missing three games because of a lingering hamstring issue, he was placed on injured reserve in December.
Thurmond, in the final year of his rookie contract, is set to make a base salary of $630,000 this season. He hopes the injuries are a thing of the past.
“This is the capabilities and abilities that I’ve had the whole time since they drafted me,” Thurmond said. “And now I really have the time to really showcase that I have to play with any injuries and things like that. I’m really just trying to compete every day.”
Along with competing for a starting job against Browner, Thurmond is locked in a tough battle with 15-year veteran Antoine Winfield for the nickel cornerback job.
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Thurmond is one of the quickest guys on the team, and he’s also physical enough to make tough tackles at the line of scrimmage in the run game.
“Inside’s a different beast because you’re almost a linebacker,” Thurmond said. “The receiver has a two-way go, and you’re playing with a lot more field. It’s two different beasts, and I love them both.”