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Thursday in Hawkville: Smith ready to step in again, if needed

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 6:

Malcolm Smith

FOCUS ON

Malcolm Smith. When veteran weakside linebacker Leroy Hill could not play against the Bears in Chicago on Sunday because of a sprained ankle, Smith stepped in and played what coach Pete Carroll labeled “a terrific game.”

Hill is practicing on a limited basis this week, as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field, so Smith continues to get a lot of work.

“You’re always waiting for the opportunity to show what you can do,” said Smith, a seventh-round draft choice in 2011 who tied for second on the club in special teams tackles as a rookie but saw limited action on defense.

“I prepare like a starter and want to play, so when the opportunity comes you just do it.”

Smith had two tackles against the Bears, but the one that stood out was when he ran Matt Forte down from behind for a 2-yard loss. He also stopped fullback Evan Rodriguez for no gain on a pass play. Each play showcased Smith’s speed.

“We’ve become faster with him on the field,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said.

Getting all the reps with the No. 1 defense in practice last week also helped Smith answer the challenge on Sunday.

“Definitely practice reps help a lot,” he said. “But you’ve still got to capitalize.”

Which Smith definitely did against the Bears, and plans to do this week if he’s needed against the Cardinals.

“When Leroy couldn’t play, we could have been lamenting, ‘Oh gosh, we’re going to lose an experienced player.’ And we hate to miss him,” Carroll said. “But Malcolm just did a remarkable job of making plays and doing his assignments and playing hard. That’s what you hope happens.”

OPPONENT WATCH

Larry Fitzgerald. The Seahawks began their season facing the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver in their opener against the Cardinals in Arizona. Since then, they’ve also gone against the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, Patriots’ Wes Welker, Cowboys’ Miles Austin, Packers’ Greg Jennings, Rams’ Danny Amendola, Panthers’ Steve Smith, Vikings’ Percy Harvin and Bears’ Brandon Marshall with varying degrees of success.

Where does Fitzgerald rank in this show of good hands?

“He’s right up there, there’s no doubt,” Bradley said. “He’s hurt us in the past.”

Like in last year’s season finale, when Fitzgerald “kind of took over the game,” as Bradley put it, with eight catches for 148 yards in the second half after the Seahawks had held him to one catch for 1 yard in the first half.

“He made some great catches,” Bradley said. “You go back and look at tape over the last couple of years and see some of the catches he’s made, and on extra-effort plays. We put together a tape on just how to tackle him because he’s so good in open space.

“He’s something to deal with.”

The Cardinals are making him more difficult to deal with by moving Fitzgerald around. While he used to lineup primarily as the split end, he’ll now be at flanker, in the slot and even in the backfield on any given snap.

“We have to have great awareness of where he is on the field,” Bradley said. “It’s just better overall awareness of the style of receiver he is, the routes that he likes to do.”

PRACTICE SQUAD ADDITION

Chandler Fenner, a 6-foot-1, 189-pound defensive back, has been added to the practice squad. A rookie free agent from Holy Cross, he signed with the Chiefs after the NFL Draft and was released in August. Fenner fills the spot that opened when defensive back DeShawn Shead was added to the 53-man roster on Wednesday.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as issued by the team:

Did not practice

DE Red Bryant (foot)

SS Kam Chancellor (groin)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

Limited in practice

LB Leroy Hill (ankle)

C Max Unger (hip)

Full participation

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

WR Sidney Rice (head)

With Chancellor sitting out, Jeron Johnson was at strong safety with the No. 1 defense. As they did in Wednesday’s practice, Jason Jones stepped in for Bryant and Smith worked for Hill in the drills the veteran linebacker did not participate in.

For the Cardinals:

Did not practice

WR Andre Roberts (ankle)

DE Ronald Talley (ankle)

Limited in practice

DE Calais Campbell (calf)

QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

CB Greg Toler (hamstring)

RB Chris Wells (knee)

Full participation

CB Justin Bethel (shoulder)

WR Early Doucet (ribs)

LS Mike Leach (back)

LB Paris Lenon (shoulder)

S Kerry Rhodes (quadriceps)

LB Reggie Walker (knee)

STAT DU JOUR

We’re flat-out lifting this one from ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando, who compares the performances of the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Colts’ Andrew Luck against seven common opponents this season – the Bears, Vikings, Packers, Dolphins, Patriots, Lions and Jets. We think you’ll agree that this look at the rookie QBs is worth repeating:

Category           Luck        Wilson

Record               4-3            5-2

Attempts          327            190

Completions    177            123

Comp. pct.       54.1           64.7

Pass yards      2,333        1,537

TD passes           13              16

Interceptions     12                1

Passer rating   74.9       115.6

Rushes                18             39

Rush yards         95           214

Rushing TD           1               0

First downs           8            15

UP NEXT

“Turnover Thursday” gives way to “No Repeat Friday” as the players will have their final full practice before Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

The Seahawks are holding their annual Toys for Tots drive at Sunday’s game and asking fans to donate new, unwrapped toys that will be distributed to children for Christmas as part of the nationwide event sponsored by the Marine Corps.

YOU DON’T SAY

“The challenge is we’re playing a great team. Arizona’s record doesn’t show how great their defense is. They make a lot of the plays. They do a lot of things on defense. They’re very experienced. So we’re going to have to play our best game.” – Wilson, pooh-poohing any thought that the Seahawks might overlook a Cardinals team that has lost eight in a row after starting 4-0


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