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Pete Carroll: Seahawks Picked Kenneth Walker In Part Due to 'Uncertainty' of Chris Carson's Health

Continuing to recover from neck surgery, Carson's status remains up in the air, but the decision to invest a high draft pick in the running back position suggests the organization isn't confident he will be able to play.

Making one of the more surprising moves of the first three rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Seahawks opted to select Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III with the 41st pick in the second round.

While many experts panned the selection due to positional value and other notable needs on the roster, including quarterback and cornerback, adding a talented running back like Walker made sense on multiple fronts due to short and long-term questions in the backfield.

For one, though the Seahawks re-signed dynamic running back Rashaad Penny in March, he's only under contract for the 2022 season and will be a free agent again next year. The former first-round pick has also struggled with durability, missing nearly 30 regular season games since being drafted out of San Diego State in 2018. Travis Homer, a sixth round pick in 2019, will be entering the final year of his contract as well.

But most importantly, two-time 1,000-yard rusher Chris Carson's status remains up in the air coming back from neck surgery and while coach Pete Carroll didn't have any new intel on his condition after the conclusion of the third round on Friday, he acknowledged "uncertainty" about the veteran's health factored into the decision to select Walker when they did.

“I would say this, we picked him because, on the board, he was up there for us and we couldn’t pass him up. We don’t have updates yet on Chris, we won’t know for some time here," Carroll said. "We can't predict that."

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Carson, who re-signed with Seattle on a two-year contract prior to the 2021 season, played in four games before landing on injured reserve with an undisclosed neck injury. After a Week 9 bye, he briefly returned to practice, but with his condition not improving enough to play, the team placed him back on injured reserve and he underwent cervical-fusion surgery in his neck in December.

Recently, video of Carson working out has surfaced on social media as he continues what Carroll called "a process" rehabbing from surgery. But as Carroll has noted several times in recent months, he once again indicated on Friday the Seahawks will have to play the long game before knowing if he will be able to return to the field and play.

With Seattle unsure of Carson's availability moving forward and the run game remaining a top priority on offense, Carroll and general manager John Schneider decided Walker was too talented to pass up. On the second of back-to-back second round picks, they snagged the explosive runner, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back and earned First-Team All-American honors after rushing for 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2021.

"With the commitment that we have in the run game, we want that group of guys really raring up to get this thing going," Carroll said. "It felt like a good move, it’s going to make it very competitive and it’s going to be the theme throughout camp.”

While the Seahawks will hold out hope Carson can make it back to the field and they aren't counting him out just yet, Carroll's ominous comments weren't painted with his patented optimism. Instead, by choosing to draft a dynamic talent like Walker instead of a player at another perceived position of need, they look to be preparing for life without the bruising runner moving forward.