RENTON, WA - Prior to the start of the Seahawks' first training camp practice of the year on Wednesday, the team released its physically unable to perform list. To the disappointment and concern of fans, the list included a rather noteworthy name: rookie receiver D'Wayne Eskridge.
Drafted by Seattle in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Eskridge has been dealing with a big toe injury that limited him in OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
"It popped up in a walkthrough in, like, just an early, kind of a trotting pace thing," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll revealed. "He felt something. I think it's something he's felt before, you know, in the past but hadn't bothered him, hadn't stopped him from playing. So we gotta make sure we're taking care of him."
Carroll says part of the decision to place Eskridge on the PUP list was due to the receiver's inability to properly prepare for camp due to the injury. Though he indicated Eskridge might be able to make a fairly quick return, Carroll still erred on the side of caution.
"He wasn't able to do enough work to be in shape to go," Carroll explained. "He's feeling pretty good right now, he's working hard at it. The PUP status allows us to wait and see how he comes along. For sure, we don't want to rush it because it's been kind of a nagging thing a little bit. So we'll see what happens. We hold a really good thought we can get him back out here in a week or two."
Carroll's optimism aside, it's hard to ignore the anxiety that fills the air with an injury like this and the history that breeds the collective nervous tension fans are currently sharing. The Seahawks have been unable to dodge the injury bug with some of their latest top draft selections, most recently losing defensive tackle Malik McDowell, running back Rashaad Penny, defensive end L.J. Collier and pass rusher Darrell Taylor for an extended period of time from training camp onward in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Additionally, Seattle dealt with a similar situation with another receiver just last season: veteran Phillip Dorsett. The team was hopeful Dorsett would give them more upside in the deep passing game after signing him as a free agent, but he instead suffered a foot injury that was initially sold as something he would eventually be able to recover from. That recovery, however, never came and Dorsett was forced to undergo surgery, abruptly ending his season and his time in Seattle before he could play a single down in a Seahawks uniform.
While Dorsett and Eskridge's injuries are not mutual whatsoever, the concern that Carroll and the Seahawks may be downplaying or underestimating the severity of the latter's ailment is not entirely unreasonable. At the very least, Carroll is adamant they will take things slow with Eskridge's recovery.
"In that case, it is kinda similar in that we have to be careful here," Carroll said when asked about how Dorsett's injury impacts Seattle's approach with Eskridge. "There's no reason to rush him back out here. We gotta make sure he's back. So he's gotta prove it to us by his workouts, you know, that he can sustain, come back the next day, work, come back the next day and so that he's, you know, away from the soreness that he has."
Carroll confirmed the Seahawks' training staff has identified the specific injury and determined no surgery will be required.
"It's just a matter of just getting him comfortable with the return to the workload," Carroll explained. "He's running; he's doing stuff. But we can't put a timeline on it right now."
Interestingly, Carroll essentially recanted his earlier projected timeline of "a week or two" recovery for Eskridge. Nevertheless, the good news here for the Seahawks is that the Western Michigan alum is currently able to take part in some physical activities. That bodes well for his chances of returning to action before the end of camp, though it appears all but certain he will not suit up for the team's first preseason game against the Raiders on August 14.
In the meantime, Eskridge's absence opens the door for the likes of receivers Cade Johnson, Connor Wedington, Penny Hart, Cody Thompson and others to stake their claim for the 53-man roster. And if Eskridge's injury lingers into the season, what was once thought to be a nine-man race for one-to-two roster spots could expand to three.