Smith-Njigba, Walker III cleared to play for Seahawks; Witherspoon questionable

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Kenneth Walker III #9 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the ball against the Los Angeles Rams in overtime at Lumen Field on January 08, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Running back Ken Walker III and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba have both been cleared to play for the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's regular season opener against the Los Angeles Rams.

Cornerback Devon Witherspoon (hamstring) and starting left guard Damien Lewis (shoulder) are listed as questionable. Head coach Pete Carroll said Lewis will play but was far more cautious on Witherspoon's status.

"He did a nice job. He did a nice job getting through it," Carroll said of Witherspoon's week of practice. "He worked and competed, got a lot of turns, but measured the whole time. They just feel like he could possibly play so we've got his as questionable and we'll see what happens with that. We've got to do long term thinking to make sure we're taking care of our guys the best we possibly can so we'll see what we do with that."

Witherspoon returned to practice this week after missing all three preseason games with a hamstring injury. Witherspoon also had a hamstring injury that limited him at time this summer during offseason workouts. However, Carroll has described it's a different part of the hamstring that's an issue with the most recent injury.

Mike Jackson and Tre Brown have been battling for the job at left cornerback opposite of Riq Woolen throughout the preseason. Carroll wouldn't indicate who would start, but said they'll both play.

"Everybody's going to play," he said. "Those guys have all been working really hard so everybody will get some play time."

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Artie Burns elevated from the practice squad for additional cornerback depth as well if Witherspoon isn't expected to play.

Smith-Njigba has been cleared to play less than three weeks removed from surgery to repair a fractured bone in his left wrist. He's practiced throughout the last two weeks while using some padded protection on his wrist.

"It's a little adjustment but I've been getting adjusted really well, so it's been good so far," Smith-Njigba said.

Smith-Njigba didn't know that he had hurt his wrist initially when he was tackled at the 1-yard line by a Dallas Cowboys cornerback in the team's second preseason game. He had surgery the following week to repair the fracture in his wrist and soon began to believe he could make it back in time for the season opener.

"I just took it day-by-day and with the information I was given, you know, I just thought I could be back soon," Smith-Njigba said.

Smith-Njigba missed nearly all of last season during his final year at Ohio State due to a significant hamstring injury. Despite missing the year, the Seahawks were still happy to select him with the 20th overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. Smith-Njigba is eager to get back to playing due to all the time he's missed.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity. I've learned a lot having to sit out last year and, you know, I get to use the tools that I've learned to be greater and to have success, hopefully."

Meanwhile, Walker popped up on the team's injury report on Thursday as he was limited in practice due to a groin injury. The injury is particularly of note as Walker missed time during training camp with a groin issue as well. He was sidelined after the first day of training camp and missed approximately three weeks before rejoining practices fully.

However, Carroll said he's fully ready to go against the Rams.

"Yeah, he's fine. He's been screaming out here and he's doing great," Carroll said.

Lewis appeared on the injury report on Thursday as he was held out of practice with his shoulder injury. Lewis missed time in training camp as well due to some illnesses and a minor injury. When he was out, Phil Haynes would slide over to left guard from his starting spot at right guard with Jake Curhan taking over at right guard. Carroll said Lewis just banged his shoulder in practice and is good to go.

Outside linebackers Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall, and defensive end Mike Morris are all cleared to play as well despite shoulder injuries that have kept them sidelined. Taylor missed the entire preseason after injuring his shoulder in practice in early August. Morris had an old shoulder injury that required a recent procedure to address while Hall hurt his shoulder in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

"It feels good to have those guys," Carroll said. You know we've been counting on them all along and then you go without for a while so it's a nice boost to get them back out."

Linebacker Jordyn Brooks was also cleared to play less than eight months removed from a surgery to repair a torn ACL. He was given a day off on Thursday for rest and will play against the Rams on Sunday.

Safety Jamal Adams and rookie running back Kenny McIntosh were both ruled out for Sunday's game, as expected. Both players have a chance to return to practice next week.

Injury Report: