By Bill Swartz
The holiday spirit was definitely in the air at Seahawks headquarters in Renton Friday. The players had an enthusiastic practice followed by the annual holiday party with staff and family members.
The mood brightened even more with both cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant on the practice field. Neither played last week due to hamstring injuries. An optimistic coach Pete Carroll said "we'll go all the way to game time with those guys. They have to show us they can play."
If they aren't completely healthy either Jeremy Lane or Byron Maxwell is ready to start at outside and nickel slot position.
Starting cornerback Richard Sherman missed a second day of practice to appeal a suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Carroll said he expects Sherman will play Sunday against the 49ers and hasn't heard anything from the league otherwise.
Receiver Sidney Rice is a question mark with a sore knee. While Rice said he feels like he'll be ready to face San Francisco, Carroll said the team's leading receiver will likely be a game-time decision as well.
Defensive lineman Alan Branch is a pleasant surprise, overcoming an ankle injury which looked fairly significant earlier in the week. Carroll said Greg Scruggs and Clinton McDonald will rotate in place of Jason Jones, who was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. According to Carroll, Jones damaged some knee cartilage in the last game against Buffalo.
Carroll plans to have Malcolm Smith and Leroy Hill share time at outside linebacker. The same formula is true for guards J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt.
The big injury question for San Francisco is their pro bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith. He's missed a significant amount of practice this week with an elbow injury.
Said Carroll of Smith, "He's a tremendous football player and leader, and they look up to him. We all miss guys like that, but I think he's going to play. He must really be hurt if he doesn't get out there, because he's a fantastic competitor."