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Seahawks rookie CB Thurmond about to get big test

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RENTON, Wash. (AP)

Walter Thurmond is about to get quite the indoctrination to starting in the NFL: Larry Fitzgerald.

Perhaps not surprising considering Thurmond's confident nature, the rookie is looking forward to it.

''This is what you live for is to go against the best,'' Thurmond, Seattle's rookie cornerback, said on Friday. ''I hope I can go against Larry the whole time. They're going to mix and move him around and get different matchups they want so they can get him the ball. We're going to play our sides, me and Marcus (Trufant) and play to the best of our abilities.''

Thurmond is expected to make his first career start because of a hamstring injury suffered by Kelly Jennings last week against Chicago. Jennings did not practice at all this week and Seattle coach Pete Carroll characterized Jennings as ''questionable at best'' after practice Friday.

Carroll also put defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) in the same category as Jennings. Both are listed as questionable on the final injury report.

But Seattle saw this type of ability in Thurmond when they risked a fourth-round pick on him, even though he missed most of his senior season at Oregon with a severe knee injury.

Even though he was limited at times early in training camp while still recovering from his injury, Seattle felt comfortable enough with Thurmond's skills that they took the chance of trading starter Josh Wilson to Baltimore for a conditional fifth-round pick.

''Remember awhile back when we made a roster change that we were going to count on Walter to come through and he's doing it, but he's got a lot to bring in,'' Carroll said. ''He's still got a lot of information, a lot of stuff, and I think he's going to be a really good, competitive player there. I don't have any doubt in that.''

The challenge this week is massive for the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Thurmond. Fitzgerald has made a habit of torturing Seattle's secondary over the years, including matching a career high with 13 catches last year in Seattle. Over his career, Fitzgerald is averaging more than six catches and nearly 100 yards per game against the Seahawks. And he's due for a breakout. Fitzgerald's gone nine straight games dating back to last season without a 100-yard receiving game.

Thurmond understands that as an unproven rookie he's likely to be a target for the Cardinals passing game, especially with a veteran like Trufant on the other side. Thurmond's been schooled by Trufant on Fitzgerald's knack for making small talk and trying to distract a defensive back that way, only to then bust out a big play.

''He really goes after the ball and makes catches you don't think he's going to be able to make,'' Thurmond said. ''You have to fight to the end until that ball hits the ground. ... You really just have to be mentally focused the whole game.''

While Thurmond will take Jennings' spot, it'll likely be a committee effort filling in for Mebane on Seattle's defensive line. Mebane was inactive last week against Chicago, leaving the hole up front to be plugged by Kentwan Balmer and Junior Siavii. Balmer made his first start last week since being acquired from San Francisco in August via trade.

Tagged: Seahawks, Cardinals, Marcus Trufant, Larry Fitzgerald, Kelly Jennings, Brandon Mebane, Walter Thurmond

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