RENTON -- For a third preseason in a row, the Seattle Seahawks are extremely hopeful that running back C.J. Prosise can be a big factor for the team's offense.
The biggest question with Prosise remains whether he can stay on the field long enough to realize the massive potential he brings to the table.
Prosise made a commitment this offseason to ensure he's as healthy as possible for the upcoming year. He says he 'lived in the weight room' and worked with a trainer to get his body equipped to handle the punishment of playing running back in the NFL.
"That was a big change I made," Prosise said. "Before this I didn't put as much work as I should have been putting in. Now I've kind of figured out my regimen. And also just getting on the field every day and working with drills, specific running back drills and stuff. For the most part hitting the weight room really hard and getting my body toned up and ready for the season is really what's helped the most.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I feel like I can do anything on the field. I feel 100 percent and ready to go so I'm excited for this camp."
Prosise has shown - albeit in small doses - that he can be an impact performer in Seattle's offense. You don't have to look much further than a 31-24 victory on the road in New England over the Patriots two years ago to see the type of performances Prosise can deliver.
Prosise combined for 153 yards from scrimmage in a massive victory over a Patriots team that would go on to the win the Super Bowl. His ability to perform both in the backfield as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield caused fits for the Patriots defense. It seemed as though whenever Prosise was matched up on a linebacker, Russell Wilson would take advantage of the mismatch and create a big play for the offense.
He finished the game with 66 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving in the victory. Wilson finished 348 passing yards and three touchdowns - all to Doug Baldwin - in one of their strongest outings of the 2016 season.
Fast forward to the next week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Prosise gained eight yards on his first carry and then broke off a 72-yard touchdown first his first, and still only, career score.
"I'm so fired up for him. He's always been such a terrific potential guy and he has just not been able to stay healthy," head coach Pete Carroll said.
The excitement over Prosise was palpable. Seattle appeared to have a weapon that could really put opposing defenses in a bind due to his versatility to carry the ball and run every route in the playbook as a receiver as well.
Then he suffered a fractured scapula, which ended his season.
It was the fourth separate injury of his rookie campaign that forced him to miss time. A hip flexor issue in OTAs, a hamstring strain in training camp, a broken bone in his wrist in the season opener against Miami and then the broken shoulder blade contributed to an injury-riddled season. Prosise ultimately played in just six games out of 18 as a rookie due to the myriad ailments he sustained.
His second season wasn't any better on the injury front.
A groin strain limited Prosise last offseason before a pair of high-ankle sprains held him to only five games played in 2017.
While Prosise is an incredibly skilled athlete, it ultimately doesn't matter if he can't stay healthy and available to play on Sundays. While it's hard to lump in offseason soft tissue injuries with the very real in-season broken bones and ankle sprains, the simple truth is that Prosise has been unavailable for most of his tenure in Seattle.
Prosise said he's not worried about being labeled "injury prone" or "soft" by some for his inability to stay on the field. Nevertheless, this entire offseason has been geared toward doing everything in his power to change the narrative.
"That doesn't bother me," Prosise said. "We play a physical game and injuries happen and you can't avoid it. This offseason was geared around getting my body prepared to take the punishment that my body needs to take and so my body is in that position to do that now. So I'm ready to play."
The work appears to have made a difference.
"He's leaner and stronger," Carroll said. "He just is more fit, which screams at how hard he worked and how important this is to him. Couldn't send a better message. He's doing everything right on point.
"The conditioning, the work he had to do to get to the way he is tells the whole story. He is ready to go and ready to battle for it."
Prosise took part in all of the team's offseason program without issue. The first week of training camp has also cruised by without any bumps in the road.
"Me and the other running backs watching him out there today, we're just saying he's on another level," fellow running back Chris Carson said on Monday. "He just looks like C.J. of college. He's a freak athlete. He's one of the best athletes I've ever seen. Just seeing him out there healthy, running around is encouraging for all of us because it makes us compete. It's great to see him out there."
There is a reason the Seahawks continue to hold out hope that Prosise can consistently become the player he showed he could be against the Patriots and Eagles two seasons ago. Finding a way to stay healthy is the biggest hurdle he has to clear toward accomplishing that goal.
Photo Credit: GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 09: Running back C.J. Prosise #22 of the Seattle Seahawks carries the football against free safety Tyrann Mathieu #32 and defensive back Tramon Williams #25 of the Arizona Cardinals in the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 9, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)