SEATTLE — Curt Warner says he's 100% back from a knee injury that threatened to end his National Football League career after just one year in Seattle.
Seahawks Coach Chuck Knox and Warner's position coach, Chick Harris, second that opinion.
"If you don't think so," Harris said, "I'll be glad to show you film clips of the before Curt Warner and the after Curt Warner. I can guarantee you that you won't find any difference."
There is a little difference.
In the first five games of his comeback season, the third-year running back from Penn State averaged 83.4 yards on the ground, 4.1 yards per carry.
During his 1983 rookie season, when he won the American Football Conference rushing crown, he averaged 90.5 yards per game, 4.3 yards per carry.
But he still has some of the best statistics in the league this season, despite having to play with a brace on his right knee.
Warner has rushed for five touchdowns and caught 22 passes, putting him slightly ahead of his 1983 stats of 13 TDs and 42 receptions. He is also second in the AFC in rushing with 417 yards on 101 carries.
"I think I'm playing as well as I used to play," he said. "As far as playing the game and doing the things I have to do, I can't tell any difference.
"I'm a very honest person. I'd be the first one to say it if I didn't think I was playing as well as I did in my rookie year. When I can't do what I want to do on the field, then it's time for me to get out of the game. I mean that sincerely."
Warner, 24, was nearly forced out of the game for good when he injured his knee in the second quarter of the Seahawks' 1984 season opener against Cleveland. Warner went down while making a sharp cut on the Kingdome's AstroTurf field. He wasn't even hit; the play cost him the season.
Doctors can put knees back together during ligament surgery, but they can't guarantee results. Warner couldn't guarantee results either when he rejoined his team, but Knox knows how well his star has recovered.
"Curt Warner looks the same to me," he said. "It's amazing what they (doctors) can do."
So far, Warner has had one blue-chip game, a 169-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance in San Diego on Sept. 15. He's also had a poor one, a 32-yard rushing game with no TDs against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 23.
The Seahawks won 49-35 in San Diego as Warner posted his second-best rushing total. They lost 35-24 to the Rams as Eric Dickerson rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
"Sometimes those holes aren't going to be there for you. They weren't there that night for Curt," said Harris, the offensive backfield coach. "Sure, you want to have big stats every time you play but there just weren't that many yards to be made against a good Los Angeles Rams' defense in that particular game.
"That was a learning experience for Curt, though. He learned you have to have patience that night."
Although the Seahawks are 3-2 and tied for the lead in the AFC West, they have been disappointing. Seattle, which made it to the 1984 playoffs with a 12-4 record last season, was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender this season. So far, it doesn't look like one.
Harris says there has been some talk about letting Warner play without the knee brace.
"Curt feels he doesn't really need it right now," he said. "But I'd rather he continue to wear it. It offers him a little bit more protection."
Warner says he carries no psychological scars from the injury.
"To tell you the truth, I don't even think about the knee any more," he said. "I just go out and play. All I think about is getting down the field and scoring touchdowns."