With tight end John Carlson in the final year of his contract and the Seattle Seahawks signing Zach Miller to a lucrative deal this season, some figured it a foregone conclusion that the Notre Dame product would not be with the franchise in 2012.
And Carlson suffering a torn labrum that required season-ending shoulder surgery before the season even started added fuel to that fire. But Seattle head coach Pete Carroll continued to tout the ability of the team using both Miller and Carlson together because of how much the Seahawks implement two-tight ends sets at his season-ending press conference this week.
“Our image of having Zach and John going at it – you saw how many extra tight ends we used,” Carroll said. “We thought it could really enhance John’s game having Zach here, so we’re hoping we can get that done and get him back with us.”
It’s easy to forget that Carlson still holds the single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 55 receptions for 627 yards and five touchdowns, set in his rookie season.
He followed that up with 51 receptions for 574 yards and a franchise-record seven touchdowns for tight ends in his second year in the league, but dropped to 31 receptions for 318 yards and a touchdown in 2010.
A confluence of events may work together to keep Carlson in Seattle in 2012.
I believe that Carlson still has the skill set to be a solid starting tight end in the league. But for one, teams on the market may be unwilling to consider giving him starting tight end money because of concerns with his shoulder.
Second, Miller was a beast in the running game as a lead blocker, but the Seahawks received lukewarm production from him this season as a pass catcher – although part of the reason for that was they needed the Arizona State product to stay in and help block because of issues with protecting Tarvaris Jackson during the first half of the season.
Miller finished with 25 catches for 233 yards and no touchdowns in his first year in Seattle, his worst season statistically as a pro.
If the Seahawks do want to bring Carlson back, they have some convincing to do.
“It’s hard to know what to expect,” Carlson said about free agency. “Obviously missing the season is not ideal. But that was the situation I was in. I feel really good. I didn’t beat my body up over the course of the season and my shoulder is repaired.
“At this point all I can do is work as hard as I can at physically preparing my body and getting back into football shape, doing ball drills and those sorts of things are things I can do on my own to hone in my football-type skills because I missed a whole season.”
So does Carlson want to stay in Seattle?
“I’d like to,” he said. “But it kind of depends on how they feel about me. If it’s a mutual thing, that’d be great. But if it doesn’t work out that way – I don’t know where I’m at with the team at this point. So that’s kind of where I’m at.
“I’ll be here rehabbing the next two months prior to free agency. So I’m sure those talks will continue, and we’ll see what happens.”
Carlson said he’s not 100 percent, but he’s been running and doing some lifts in the weight room, but is not doing shoulder press or hang snatches, lifts that would directly affect the shoulder. But Carlson said he’s doing about 90 percent of the stuff he would do normally.
He’d only missed a couple games in college because of a knee sprain, so being out for a full season was a new experience for him.
“It was really hard at the beginning, kind of feeling isolated, not being part of the team,” Carlson said. “For many years, all throughout high school and in college and in my first three years here, you’re part of the team, and you get used to the team and being around the guys all the time.”
But an added benefit was Carlson got to spend some quality family time with wife Danielle and 14-month-old son William.
“That would be the silver lining for sure,” Carlson said. “I’ve been around a lot. We have a 14-month-old, so the last, four, six or eight months with the lockout and being on the IR this year, I did get a lot of family time, which is fantastic. You can’t get that time back.”
During his time away from the game, Carlson said he’s been handling most of the cooking duties at home – which included cooking mostly healthy stuff like grilled chicken and fish, and brown rice.
“I’m not sure she even knows how to cook anymore,” Carlson joked about wife Danielle. “But I think she would probably say she’s not sure if I know how to work anymore.”
Carlson says he hasn’t eaten at McDonalds in years – wish I could say the same.