So much for that.
No-luck Drew Lock has tested positive for COVID-19, the Seahawks announced late Tuesday afternoon, following him practicing ahead of Geno Smith as the first-team quarterback for the first time. Lock will not play in Seattle’s second preseason game, Thursday against the Chicago Bears.
That means this derby to succeed Russell Wilson as the Seahawks’ quarterback is likely going into September and the first practices if not first games of the regular season.
The team announcement of the positive COVID test came about an hour and half after coach Pete Carroll said Lock, 25, would start against the Bears, and that it’s been planned this way for months.
Now the 31-year-old Smith will start. He started over Lock last weekend in the Seahawks’ preseason opener at Pittsburgh.
The NFL follows CDC guidelines on COVID-19. Though they recently changed, those guidelines still say “if you test positive for COVID-19, you stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home. You are likely most infectious during these first 5 days.”
Day one for Lock is Tuesday, the day of his confirmed positive test. Day five is Saturday, an off day for the Seahawks from full practicing. If he has no symptoms and tests negative on Saturday Lock would be in line to return to practice Sunday.
That day will be the first of four practices before Seattle’s third and final preseason game, Aug. 26 at Dallas.
The question now becomes: Will Carroll choose to play his starting offensive players longer in that preseason finale than he normally does — which is little, if at all — so Lock can have his one preseason game starting and playing with the first-team offense? That’s Carroll has planned for months.
As with everything affected by the coronvirus the last two-plus years, plans change.
Carroll playing starters longer at Dallas in 10 days seems unlikely, given the coach’s history and characteristic aversion to risking starters to injury in the preseason.
So Lock may not get a full, finally equal chance to alternate time with the starting offense until the long gap — 16 days — between Seattle’s preseason finale and its opener Sept. 12 against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos.
That’s the team for which Lock went 8-13 as a starter over parts of three season. Then Seattle traded Wilson to Denver March 8 for Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive tackle Shelby Harris and multiple top draft choices.
As for the possibility Lock’s is a false positive, teams do not generally announce COVID cases until after it has a confirmed positive test on that player.
Tuesday was the first practice of the 12 in Seattle’s training camp Lock was running the first-team offense over Smith in 11-on-11 scrimmages. The quarterback competition finally was changing. For months, including offseason practices after Lock arrived, it had been an apples-to-oranges comparison for coaches; Smith had been with the starters going against starting defenses, Lock with the twos against reserve defenses.
For a few hours the competition was finally, truly on with Lock moving into the starting offense Tuesday.
Carroll had said before the team announced Lock’s positive test that Lock deserved the chance to start for his performance in training camp and his two touchdown passes Saturday night at Pittsburgh.
“This is part of the plan,” Carroll said of Lock starting this week. “Regardless of what happened, we were going to give Drew the chance to start the game to see what happens. Fortunately, he’s played really well and deserves a shot to play — just like everybody else deserves a shot to play and show what they can do.
“We’ll just be able to stick to it.”
Until they weren’t.
Asked if Smith still leads the competition with Lock running the starting offense Tuesday, Carroll said: “I don’t even have to say that. Geno is still our number one guy. He’s holding onto his spot, at this point.
“I really liked what Drew has shown us. You look at his passer rating and some of the stuff he did, he did a great job.
“Both our guys can play. That’s we do know. They both can play.”
Lock threw two touchdown passes and rallied the Seahawks into ties at 17 and25 playing the entire second half with the second-team offense Saturday night in Pittsburgh. Smith started and played the first half.
Smith was 10 for 15 for 101 yards and a rushing touchdown at the end of the first half that got the slow-starting Seahawks to within 17-10. His passer rating was an average 85.7.
Lock was 11 for 15 for 102 yards. His two touchdown passes with no interceptions pushed his passer rating to a gaudy 131.1.
Smith excelled in his 2-minute drill at the end of the first half. His sharpest drive and decision-making of the game ended with his 2-yard touchdown run on an outside run-pass option play that is more Lock’s specialty.
“I felt like my decision-making was on point,” Smith said.
Lock got a 2-minute drill at the end of the game, with the score tied. He failed.
With the Seahawks in Steelers territory after rookie Boye Mafe’s sack of Pittsburgh’s quarterback Kenny Pickett on fourth down, Lock did not read a blitzing Steelers linebacker off his back edge. Instead of changing the pass protection or the called play at the line of scrimmage before the snap with an audible, Lock ran the play called that left the blitzing linebacker unaccounted for. He got smacked, sacked and lost the fumble the Steelers converted into the winning touchdown in the final seconds.
After the game the Seahawks lost 32-25, Lock took full responsibility for not changing the play call on his fumble play.
“You know, I’ll always be honest up here: Yeah, I could have handled that better,” Lock said, candidly and professionally. “Could have flipped the pro(tection), played it hot. As a quarterback, you are always able to fix those things. I’ll take it on the chest that I could have done better there.”
Carroll said Tuesday of the blitz, sack and Lock’s lost fumble: “He didn’t do it right. He got walloped. He’ll never miss that hot (blitz read) again.
“That was a great lesson.”