The Seahawks on Tuesday released running back Chris Carson with a failed physical designation and it is expected that he will retire due to a lingering neck injury at the age of 27.
The NFL Network first reported that Carson is expected to retire but that he “won’t make a retirement statement, just in case his neck dramatically improves.” As the NFL Network reported, the failed physical designation will allow Carson to receive “several million” in injury protection benefits.
Carson had one year remaining on a contract he signed in March 2021 that was due to pay him a non-guaranteed salary of $4.5 million this year. That contract included $5.5 million in guaranteed money.
Carson did not play after the fourth game of last season due to a neck issue that coach Pete Carroll said at the time was something Carson had been dealing with for a while and flared up after he played one half against the 49ers on Oct. 3.
“He’s got an old injury that you can see (in exams),” Carroll said in October. “It’s kind of, I don’t know if it’s chronic, but it occasionally pops up. It hasn’t been an issue in the past. He didn’t get hit, and that’s how he got hurt. It’s a condition he’s got probably from weightlifting and all of the stuff he’s done over the years. It could have been something a long time ago. It’s just flared up some, so we’re being real careful with him. He was too uncomfortable to play.”
He then had cervical-fusion surgery in December. The team had hoped he would be cleared to take part in the offseason program and minicamp. But he was not able to pass a physical then, and Carroll spoke ominously at that time of Carson’s future.
“Our guys love this game that they grow up playing, and when they sense that there may be an end to it, it’s hard. It’s difficult, and it’s real,” Carroll said. “And we’re going to love him through it and help him as much as possible, if that’s the case, like we do with everybody when it comes to the end of it. It’s inevitable. It’s coming, but it’s always too soon, so we’re trying to fight that.”
Carson told Heavy.com in June he hoped to keep playing saying: “Oh, we still going right now. I see myself playing until I feel like stopping. My mindset is never to give up. So I’m staying positive like I said, and continue to fight and get back onto the field.”
But for now, it appears Carson’s career is over, with Carroll saying in June the two had talked about that possibility.
“We had a real good chance to hang out with him and feel him, and he’s concerned because he wants to play,” Carroll said. “He loves the game, and he’s a worker, you know. He wants to work and push and all that, (but) there’s some things that he was still a little bit restrained to do. So he wasn’t quite ready to do everything at that time, and it’s just hard on him.”
Carson came to Seattle as a seventh-round draft pick in 2017 out of Oklahoma State and emerged as one of the team’s best late-round selections in recent years, immediately earning a starting role. But he suffered a leg injury four games into his rookie season and missed the rest of the year.
He played 41 of a possible 48 games over the following three seasons, though, rushing for a career-high 1,230 yards in 2019 — the highest single-season total for any Seahawk since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.
He is eighth on Seattle’s all-time rushing yardage list with 3,502 yards and sixth in rushing touchdowns with 24. According to Pro Football Reference, Carson has the sixth-highest Weighted Career Approximate Value rating of the 75 players in NFL history to be rated 249th overall.
Seattle anticipated that Carson might not be able to play this season by drafting Ken Walker III out of Michigan State in the second round in April. Seattle also re-signed Rashaad Penny to a one-year deal in March, and Penny and Walker now become the team’s running back duo heading into 2022 with Tuesday’s news on Carson.
“He’s been one of my favorite Seahawks ever,” Carroll said in June. “I’ve loved what he stood for and what he brought, and we’d love to have him back again. He’s a very special player and a very special competitor. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. … We’re all pulling for him.”
Some of Carson’s teammates took to social media after the news broke to pay tribute. Penny simply posted a picture of himself with Carson while fellow running back Travis Homer posted a clip of a Carson TD run with the words “dog mentality.”
This story will be updated.