Sports

D.J. Fluker responds defiantly online after Carroll says he’s competing for playing time

D.J. Fluker was on the internet Monday.

How do we know?

The Seahawks’ right guard made it ALL-CAPS clear online Monday night.

Hours after his coach Pete Carroll said Fluker was coming back this week from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the last couple games two compete for playing time with impressive fill-in Jamarco Jones, the massive Fluker went large on his Twitter account.

Earlier Monday, Carroll said the competition was on at Fluker’s position of right guard this week before Sunday’s game at Atlanta.

Jamarco Jones, usually a backup tackle, has impressed coaches with his play the last 2 1/2 games for Fluker at guard. Fluker strained his hamstring in the first half of that win over the Rams three games ago. Jones has made his first two NFL starts since.

Seattle’s fifth-round draft choice last year from Ohio State has been so good as the fill-in right guard Carroll isn’t saying Fluker is going back there now that he appears healthy enough to play against Atlanta.

“Fluke will be back and ready to go,” Carroll said. “He will be ready to compete this week for playing time.”

With Jones, for his job.

“He’s done well. That means he’s raised the question: Does he deserve to play? Does he deserve to start?” Carroll said of Jones, the former Ohio State multiyear starter at left tackle the coach cited for his poise, consistency and mastery of the blocking calls against the Rams, Browns and Ravens. “He’s played terrific for us three weeks in a row now. ...

“It’s just been no big deal. He’s handled it. ...

“So it’s a good situation for us. It’s as competitive as it can be. And D.J. is going to come back rarin’ to go, which he is. His attitude is great. He can’t wait to get back out there.

“So we will see what it all means.”

Fluker then made it clear he is already, indeed, rarin’ to go.

If Duane Brown misses a third consecutive game because of his biceps injury Sunday at Atlanta, which Carroll said is a possibility, Jones could move back to left tackle and play there while Fluker returns to right guard. That would free George Fant, Brown’s fill-in the last two games, to get back to his role the last two seasons as an extra blocking tight end for a dozen or so plays per game.

“They’re a little more cautious,” Carroll said of the team’s medical staff. “He’s aggressive and wanting to go for it. If he can, he’s going to be on the field (for practice) on Wednesday. We’ll see what happens.

“We may have to protect him from himself in this regard.”

The Seahawks would rather have Fant available as an extra tight end again. Blocking has been a problem for them at that position since Will Dissly’s season-ending Achilles injury two games ago at Cleveland. Luke Willson and Jacob Hollister are faster, receiving tight ends. Willson got run through at times by the attacking Ravens this past weekend.

“We are missing George playing there. That’s something that we’re missing right now,” Carroll said Monday. “Regardless of whoever else we had with Will and the guys we’ve had in the past, nobody blocks like George.

“That’s a factor that we’re hoping we can get back to soon.”

The Seahawks re-signed Fluker to a two-year, $6 million contract this spring. But only a $1 million signing bonus and now this season at his $850,000 base salary is guaranteed. Because of multiple injuries, the 28-year-old veteran has not played a full season since 2016 when he was with the then-San Diego Chargers.

Seattle could release Fluker before next season and save $3 million against its salary cap. The team drafted rugged, Fluker-style guard Phil Haynes this spring knowing Fluker’s contract ends after 2020. Haynes has yet to play this season. The rookie is on the physically-unable-to-perform list following offseason surgery for a sports hernia.

Fluker was the Seahawks’ biggest priority to re-sign this offseason to keep from free agency, once the team gave the franchise tag to eventually traded defensive end Frank Clark. Fluker has perfectly fit the way Carroll and line coach Mike Solari want to run the ball and play offense. He proved last season to be a lively, perfect fit in their locker room and on their line that blocked for the NFL’s top rushing offense in 2018.

Two scenes the Seahawks’ narrow home loss to the eventual NFC-champion Rams in October are why the Seahawks, and their fans, have loved Fluker since the team signed him as a free agent from the New York Giants before the 2018 season.

Monday night online, with his job apparently up for competition, Fluker showed that fire again.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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