NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson / USA TODAY Sports

Chris Carson has yet to be medically cleared to return from the neck injury that sidelined him for all but four games in 2021. It's possible the Seahawks running back won't be cleared at all. Addressing Carson's excused absence from Seattle's mandatory minicamp, coach Pete Carroll hinted this week that the 27-year-old veteran may be forced to retire as a result of his injury.

"We visited (with Chris) -- it was about 10 days ago now -- and had a real good chance to hang out with him," Carroll told reporters Thursday, per ESPN. "He's concerned, because he wants to play and he loves the game and he's a worker. ... He wants to push and all that, and there's some things that he was still a little bit restrained to do.

"It's just hard on him," Carroll continued. "Our guys love this game that they grow up playing and when they sense that there may be an end to it, it's hard. It's difficult and it's real. We're going to love him through it and help him as much as possible if that's the case, like we do with everybody when it comes to the end of it. It's inevitable. It's coming. But it's always too soon. We're trying to fight that off and he knows that. He's battling. He's doing everything he can and he wants to compete all the way until the last word, and so he's going for it."

In other words, the Seahawks aren't ruling Carson out for 2022 -- Carroll added that there's a "big assessment to be done" later this month, when Carson revisits with team doctors to update his status. But they're also not necessarily counting on him being available, either. The running back still doesn't have full range of motion after undergoing vertebrae-fusion surgery in December. Despite that uphill climb, Carson is still working to get back on the field. 

"I see myself playing until I feel like stopping," Carson told on Friday. "My mindset is never to give up. So, I'm staying positive like I said, and continue to fight and get back onto the field.

"Not trying to rush it, I'm just trying to take it one day at a time. Just keep rehabbing, keep getting better. Keep building strength and then go from there. But like I said, there's no timeline for me."

Injuries have been a regular issue for Carson in recent years. The former seventh-round draft pick has found success when healthy, topping 1,000 rushing yards twice and averaging 4.6 yards per carry in five years as Seattle's official No. 1 back, but he's never played a full season, missing 12 games as a rookie, four in 2020 and another 13 last season.