For years, Chris Carson encouraged, motivated and propelled Rashaad Penny through his many injuries that threatened to derail Penny’s NFL career.
In so doing, Penny found a new best friend.
“He made my job easier coming in,” the Seahawks’ running back and 2018 first-round draft choice said Tuesday about Carson, Seattle’s lead rusher the last four seasons. “The competitive aspect, we competed every day to make each other better.
“I thought Chris, when I first came in, he took me under his wing as a brother. first day He made everything easier for me. Having his support, and then him trusting my abilities and what I can do as a player also made it easier, just telling me to use my speed and do what I’ve done.
“He’s just always made things easier for me. I will always appreciate him for that.”
Now, the 27-year-old Carson’s football career is in doubt.
The close friends’ roles are reversed.
Penny is keeping Carson’s spirits up, though the biggest challenge of Carson’s football life.
Carson had cervical fusion surgery in his neck in December. That was to fix longer-term neck pain he had tried playing through last season. That lasted four, grueling games. He and the Seahawks then agreed to end his 2021 season and eventually have the tricky surgery.
Quality of life, not running over linebackers, are now the primary concern for and about Carson. Football increasingly seems secondary.
Coach Pete Carroll has gone from saying in the middle of last season the Seahawks believed Carson would return to playing for them this year — 2022 is the final season of his $10 million contract — to saying in March Carson may return this summer but the Seahawks weren ‘t sure.
On May 23 Carroll said he, Carson and the team were expecting to gain more clarity about the running back’s situation by the end of that week.
Carroll hasn’t spoken to the media since, and the team has had nothing to say on the matter. Carroll is expected to speak to the media Thursday, to end the Seahawks’ three-day minicamp.
Penny has spoken to Carson. Regularly.
“I’m the biggest supporter. You know, that’s my best friend, really. He means everything to me,” Penny said. “I try to communicate with him as much as possible.”
Metcalf skipping, Carson in doubt
Penny was speaking on what wasn’t the best day these changed Seahawks have had this offseason. Not only is Carson’s situation hanging over the post-Russell Wilson offense and team with no clarity yet but signs trending negatively, DK Metcalf began skipping mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
The star wide receiver is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He and Carroll have said this spring they expect a new Seahawks deal to keep Metcalf happy and in Seattle for 2023 and well beyond.
But the team didn’t give Metcalf permission to miss this three-day minicamp, a league source told The News Tribune. The Seahawks could fine him about $90,000 for not showing up and using leverage in trying to get his new deal.
On the practice field Tuesday, this Seahawks offense didn’t have Wilson, Metcalf or Carson.
Only one of those three appear likely to play another game for Seattle.
The signs are ominous regarding Carson’s future in football — after five, battering seasons with Seattle, 3,502 yards rushing, 804 more yards receiving and 31 touchdowns while playing in just 49 of a possible 81 regular-season games.
Last month, with needs all over the offensive and defensive lines, for pass rushers and at cornerback, the Seahawks used a second-round draft choice on prolific Michigan State running back Ken Walker. That pick that high, with Penny re-signed only through the 2022 season, was another indicator Carson’s future with Seattle was in jeopardy.
“We don’t have updates yet on Chris,” Carroll said the night four weeks ago the Seahawks drafted Walker with the 41st-overall choice in the 2022 NFL draft.
“We won’t know for some time here (with Carson), and we can’t predict it yet,” Carroll said May 4. “So there is a little bit of uncertainty that we are waiting on. “With the commitment that we have in the run game, we want that group of guys really raising up to get this thing going. It felt like a good move, it’s going to make it very competitive…it’s going to be the theme throughout camp.”
Carroll said last month Carson was “going through a process here, the evaluation. There’s still more information to be dealt with and understood and translated for us.
“We haven’t heard any updates to help you with him right now, unfortunately.”
That doesn’t sound great.
Penny supporting Carson
Penny said Tuesday his regular conversations with Carson from afar don’t include talk of Carson’s neck, or of Penny’s 3 1/2 years of leg and hand injuries that had him unlikely to return to Seattle until his breakout final five weeks of the 2021 season last winter.
“With injuries, we try pretty much to stay off the topic. We hate reminding each other what we are going through, or what our paths have been,” Penny said.
“But I know he’s doing much better. I know he is stronger than ever, so I feel like he’s doing good.”
Asked if he sensed Carson was confident he could play in 2022, Penny shook his head side to side.
“Yeah, pretty much, probably don’t know about that,” he said.
“Knowing him, he’ll probably come back and play.”
“I feel like he can bounce back from anything, though. The dude is tougher than nails,” Penny said. “Just learning everything from him made it easier for me to give the younger backs hope.
“You just hate to see a guy (be in a situation) like that,” Penny said, his voice trailing away.
“I miss him, though, for sure. I feel like everybody does, too.”
This story was originally published June 7, 2022 5:03 PM.