RENTON, Wash. — James Carpenter is just happy to be back practicing.
The Seattle Seahawks guard, a former Alabama and Hephzibah standout, has been cleared to return to practice and was back at work this week as he gets re-acclimated to playing football once again after a devastating knee injury in practice ended his rookie season.
"I've been waiting for 10 months to be back," Carpenter said.
Carpenter was injured during a relatively benign blocking drill during a practice in mid-November.
"I just knew that my season was over," Carpenter said.
Carpenter had done considerable damage to his knee, including tearing his anterior-cruciate ligament. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the outset of training camp and seemed destined to begin the regular season there as well.
But Carpenter finally began to make strides in his recovery midway through training camp and surprised everyone, including head coach Pete Carroll, by being activated for the start of the regular season.
"He's way ahead of schedule. We thought it was going to take another 6-8 weeks to get to this point," Carroll said.
Carpenter still isn't close to being called upon to take the field for the Seahawks just yet. He's been limited in practice this week while getting his first football-related work in nearly 10 months. While his teammates are getting ready to begin the season against division rival Arizona on Sunday, Carpenter is essentially just beginning his training camp.
"He kind of looks like everyone did at the beginning of OTA's," offensive line coach Tom Cable said.
Carpenter struggled initially with adapting to the speed of the NFL game. He came into training camp out of shape following the lockout and was quickly taken advantage of early in the preseason.
Denver rookie Von Miller ran circles around him during a preseason game last fall as Carpenter struggled to catch up. But as the season progressed, Carpenter slowly got more comfortable. He started the first nine games of the season (eight at right tackle, one at left guard) before the injury ended his season.
"Very solid player up until the injury and then the injury was kind of a big setback in that that's right when he was taking off," Cable said.
Carpenter can now begin the process of getting back on the field in an actual game. In addition to getting back in game shape, Carpenter has to adjust to a new position as the team has moved him to left guard. It's a position he already feels comfortable with after playing on the left side of the line at Alabama.
"I'm happy playing guard," Carpenter said. "I feel like that is where I should be playing."
Carroll still plans on being cautious with Carpenter in the interim. They don't need him to factor in anytime soon as Paul McQuistan has locked down the starting job. Yet, they still believe in his potential to be a factor for them in the future and have come too far to risk any setbacks now.
He feels great about what he's gone through and how he's made the most of this time and it's a real good success story for a young guy proving he can get back from a very difficult situation," Carroll said. "Now we've just got to manage it really well and be patient."