RENTON, Wash. — Outside of some sore ribs and an ankle that was a little gimpy, injuries never became a major problem for Doug Baldwin during his breakout rookie season.
It’s why Baldwin was able to lead the Seattle Seahawks in receiving, becoming the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in pass catches in more than 50 years.
This year, it’s been a different health story for Baldwin, who will miss Sunday’s game at Detroit with a high left ankle sprain.
He suffered the injury on a punt return last Thursday against San Francisco when teammate Chris Maragos shoved San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson, who fell into Baldwin’s legs. Seattle coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Baldwin would not play against the Lions, marking the second game this season that Baldwin has missed.
He did not play in Week 3 against Green Bay after suffering a shoulder injury in practice.
“He hasn’t been healthy. Really, I think he just hasn’t had any continuity to this offseason. He was hampered all the way back in OTAs and that’s why I was so happy he got a couple of weeks in a row that he practiced,” Carroll said. “I think we might have got three weeks in a row where he practiced and that’s just not enough for the kinds of things we do with him, all of the timing that is involved. He needs to be right, we need to be right, the quarterback needs to understand and all of that and we have not had the opportunity to get that going.”
Last season, Baldwin was a security blanket for Tarvaris Jackson, successfully working his way across the middle of the field to catch 51 passes for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Five times he caught five or more passes in a game and was the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in catches since Bill Groman of the 1960 Houston Oilers.
This year, Baldwin’s ailments have only added another layer of frustration to Seattle’s passing game, which currently ranks last in the NFL. Expected to again be the underneath threat in the Seahawks offense, Baldwin has yet to gain the same connection with rookie QB Russell Wilson. Baldwin has just 11 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown. His best game came two weeks ago in Seattle’s 24-23 win over New England. He had 74 yards receiving but just two receptions.
Along with the shoulder and now ankle problems, Baldwin was previously slowed by a nagging hamstring problem and needed dental surgery after he cracked two teeth in the season opener against Arizona. Baldwin dove for a pass in the end zone in the closing seconds and landed so hard his front teeth cracked.
“Even though those guys did work out well in the summertime together, it just wasn’t enough. I don’t think there is anything holding him back other than he’s not healthy,” Carroll said.
Charly Martin is likely to take Baldwin’s spot, although other receivers such as Golden Tate could work in the slot as well for Seattle. Martin has been active just twice this season, catching one pass against Arizona and Green Bay.
Tate is coming off a miserable game against San Francisco during which he dropped two key passes and went without a reception for the first time since Week 4 of the 2011 season.
“I couldn’t get my mind off that game, and how I played especially, and what I did to not help this team win,” Tate said of the loss to San Francisco. “It was heavy on me. But I’ve forgotten about it now. It’s a new week and it’s time to prepare for Detroit.”