The NFL announced a four-game suspension for Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond on Tuesday, resulting from a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
With cornerback Brandon Browner out because of a groin injury, and expected to face his own suspension in the coming days, Seattle is making changes to the right side of its defense.
The Seahawks signed former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox on Tuesday. He’ll likely move into what was Thurmond’s original spot as the nickel cornerback, which covers the slot.
Byron Maxwell will move into what was Browner’s, then Thurmond’s starting spot opposite Richard Sherman. Jeremy Lane will move into a backup-cornerback role in addition to his special-teams duties.
Browner will likely be moved to injured reserve in the coming days. When that happens, the Seahawks are expected to call up second-year cornerback DeShawn Shead from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
The Seahawks worked out Tacoma-born Marcus Trufant on Monday and reached out to veteran Antoine Winfield, who was cut by Seattle at the end of training camp. Neither are likely to join the team at this point.
That leaves the Seahawks, with the league’s best record at 10-1, shuffling its secondary with five games to go in the season.
They have been in similar circumstances before.
Browner was suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy at the end of last season and missed the final four games.
The first game Browner missed last year, Thurmond played 98 percent of the snaps.
After Thurmond was hurt, Lane and Maxwell stepped in. Maxwell played 84 percent of the snaps and Lane 81.
That’s the formula the Seahawks will be looking at Monday night, when the New Orleans Saints (9-2) come to Seattle with one of the league’s most precise and varied passing attacks.
“Byron [Maxwell] has been a fantastic player for us whenever we have given him his opportunities,” coach Pete Carroll said. “When he started last year, he did really well when he played for us in all situations coming off of the bench; and then special teams, he’s a fantastic player.”
The Seahawks’ prior handling of a cornerback shuffle shows two things: The team has depth, and the suspensions – six (excluding Browner’s impending suspension and Richard Sherman’s successful appeal last season) in two years – have happened often.
The latter issue led Carroll to explain Tuesday that he will always provide second chances for people. That has cost him at times.
“There are a lot of guys in this program, and I don’t know that we could expect to be perfect,” Carroll said. “We’d like to be, but that isn’t the case. But it’s a big challenge for these guys to do right, and we want them all to do it and carry through and be there where we need them or (are) counting on them. It doesn’t always work out that way.”
Carroll said he addressed the issues with the team before practice Tuesday. Asked if the poor judgment from his two cornerbacks threatens to derail the team, Carroll was unequivocal.
“Not a bit,” Carroll said. “It’s just a very difficult situation for the individual. But for us, we’ll march on and be OK about it. We’ll miss them.”