RENTON At the start of training camp this month, C.J. Prosise told me about the “completely different” training regimen he did this offseason, “to get my body to the point that I could play the whole game, that I could play a full season.”
Right now, it’s not working.
The dynamic running back for whom a special section of the Seahawks’ playbook is devoted spent Tuesday the same place he spent Monday: Inside the training room during the early parts of practice, then on the sidelines to watch the end of it.
His status to play Friday night’s third preseason game, at home against Kansas City, is the same it’s been for much of his Seahawks career so far. In doubt.
Prosise’s latest in a string of injuries, dating back beyond three years ago when he was at Notre Dame, is a strained groin.
Tuesday I asked assistant head coach and line coach Tom Cable, whose duties include being Seattle’s run-game coordinator, if he is getting concerned with Prosise’s dependability after his injury-filled rookie season of 2016.
“I think we all are,” Cable said.
Message sent: Prosise is indeed gaining the label of fragile, not just outside team headquarters but inside the minds of Seahawks’ decision makers.
For all the talent he showed last season -- more than 150 total yards in the November win at New England, the 72-yard romp for a score the following week at Philadelphia, the game in which he got a shoulder fracture that cost him the next two months -- fears are forming that Prosise can’t stay on the field.
“We want to get everybody as healthy as we can as soon as we can so that they can be playing together,” Cable said. “I think as you know, that’s the key to good offensive football. We know we have a good offense. And for us to go from good to great and excellent to elite, then we need all of the pieces out there.
“So we’re working on that.”
Prosise felt tightness during pregame warmups Friday just before the second preseason game. That got him scratched from playing against Minnesota. After he missed practice Monday, he did some running with a trainer to test the groin. He did the same thing on the field following Tuesday’s practice.
“He just tightened up for the game in pregame. I watched it happen right before my eyes,” coach Pete Carroll said, describing a sight he’s had too many times in Prosise’s first 17 months with the Seahawks. “He was working. He was going hard, and you could see that he kind of felt it. So he hasn’t quite gotten rid of it.”
This latest injury is concerning enough that the team sent him to get a magnetic resonance imagine test last weekend.
“He’s had an MRI. And there’s no result from the MRI,” Carroll said, “so that’s a really good sign.”
Three weeks and one Prosise injury ago, Carroll said the third-down back and former Notre Dame wide receiver “has a great scope that he fills for us. He can come out of the backfield and he can run routes as a receiver. And he looked really good running the ball behind the line of scrimmage.”
But the overriding question with Prosise is the same now as it was at the start of camp: Not ability, durability.
In 2015 at Notre Dame he had a concussion. He ended his career with the Fighting Irish two seasons ago on the bench with an ankle injury. He was still hurt for much of the time before and after the annual NFL scouting combine in March 2016, before the draft. He was limited again for the first organized team activities and minicamp of his NFL career in the spring of ‘16. That was a hip-flexor injury. Then, on the first day of training camp as a rookie last summer, Prosise strained his hamstring.
Guys with less talent, speed and size would have been cut by August. Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell did express frustration their new weapon was so malfunctioned so often and so early in his career.
Prosise was finally ready for the 2016 opener against Miami. He had one carry and one catch – then cracked a bone in his wrist in that win. He missed the next four games.
Upon his return at the end of October, Prosise was brilliant. He had 80 yards receiving at New Orleans. With Thomas Rawls out the following week at New England, Prosise made his first career start. He scorched the Patriots with 153 total yards in Seattle’s win over the eventual Super Bowl champions. Prosise became the first player to lead the Seahawks in both rushing and receiving yards in a game since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
Prosise was so good that night the Seahawks cut running back Christine Michael days later. They decided Prosise could carry the rushing load while Rawls was injured.
The following week, in the first half at home against the Eagles, Prosise romped for his 72-yard score past dusted defenders. He was reviving Seattle’s offense with 233 yards on 27 touches over five quarters, 8.6 yards each time he got the ball. That’ll work, for any offense.
Then in the second quarter of that Nov. 20 game against Philadelphia, he was out again -- for the rest of the season. He had a fractured scapula. Prosise missed the final eight games, including both playoff ones.
Almost as soon as the season ended in January, Prosise went to Arizona to train at a performance institute. He knew he had to build his body more specifically so he could withstand an NFL season. He worked not on strength and straight-line speed but on explosiveness and acceleration. He spent days upon days doing lateral-movement and change-of-direction drills. He honed his quick-twitch muscles with repetitive, short-burst exercises. He improved his flexibility. His nutrition. His rest.
Somewhat remade back at Seahawks headquarters this spring, Prosise made it through organized team activities and minicamp without missing so much as a water break.
Carroll said “it was incredibly beneficial for us to see C.J. make it through the whole time. It was like, one day after another, nobody wanted to say anything, because he started to add up some days.
After minicamp ended in mid-June, Prosise, from Petersburg, Virginia, went back his usual offseason workout gym in Knoxville, Tennessee. He did six more weeks of workouts there. He didn’t make his body bigger, but healthier and quicker.
He believed three weeks ago he’s more adaptable and resilient for 2017.
But now he’s on the sidelines instead of in the offense. Again.
“Now, we just have to get him loosened up and ready to go,” Carroll said Monday.
“We’d love to see him play this weekend.”