RENTON, Wash. -- Marcus Trufant squinted into the autumn fog drifting off the Seahawks' practice field. He flashed a sheepish grin.
It was as if he was a shy outcast, not a Seattle mainstay since his hometown team drafted him 11th overall in 2003.
"I'm the new guy," the Pro Bowl cornerback from 2007 joked Tuesday, after his first practice since he injured his lower back in July.
"I'd been in rehab so long. I hadn't seen the sun -- or the rain -- for a long time. I'm outside, man. I'm playing football!"
Yes, the battered Seahawks are taking advantage of their bye week to get healthier. And not just by resting.
Trufant, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since the start of training camp, said he hopes to play in Seattle's next game, Nov. 1 at Dallas. So does Leroy Hill. The $38 million outside linebacker practiced for the first time since he tore his groin in Seattle's opener Sept. 13.
Trufant returned from a disk issue in his back to join the second-team defense, as his team went back to basics in the first of two practices before coach Jim Mora gives them an extended weekend off beginning Thursday.
Trufant bumped and hounded starting receiver Nate Burleson. He also turned a seemingly meaningless practice during a bye week into hope for a 2-4 team that needs some.
"I think I'm healed," Trufant said, adding he still has "a little maintenance" with his back.
That includes strengthening core muscles in his torso. The exercises are similar to the ones quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been doing for most of the last year to compensate for a bulging disk that cost Hasselbeck nine game in 2008.
Trufant said his injury, which occurred when he twisted awkwardly breaking on the ball in a drill just before training camp, was similar. But he joked he's better off than the three-time Pro Bowl passer, and not just because he's 28 and Hasselbeck is 34.
"He's a quarterback. I'm a DB. So I kind of see myself as a better athlete," he said, laughing.
"I've got to stay on it, it's a constant rehab thing."
Rookie defensive coordinator Gus Bradley thinks whether Trufant starts in place of season-long fill-in Josh Wilson against the Cowboys next week depends on whether he's physically up to it. He thinks learning the new defense he's installed will be a breeze for Trufant, who's been attending meetings and film sessions all season.
"Tru's a smart man. It won't take very long for him to pick up the scheme," Bradley said. "It's more the mentality of how he feels."
Hill said he initially thought he career might be over when he shredded his groin, when his legs were too wide while trying to make a tackle against St. Louis.
"I'll try to not do that again," he deadpanned.
The fifth-year veteran called it the worst pain he's ever had, but now feels "perfect" following surgery performed by a specialist in Philadelphia.
"Oh, man, it felt good," Hill said of returning Tuesday. "Sitting on the couch seeing what's been going on, it hurt. It showed me how important football is to me."