w intAccording to Ian Rapoport, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond will miss Weeks 13-16 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, which is different than a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The San Francisco 49ers host Seattle on Dec. 8 (Week 14).

Thurmond didn’t play much in 2011-12, just eight games. But he has been a fixture for Seattle’s secondary in 2013, playing in all 11 games and registering the second-highest Pro Football Focus score among the team’s cornerbacks (behind Richard Sherman, of course). He has defended six passes and intercepted one, a pick-6 last Sunday against the Vikings. Thurmond has played 462 snaps this season, the same total as Brandon Browner (the guy who said, “I’d put my hands around his neck” in reference to Jim Harbaugh back in June).

Late-season suspensions for Seahawks corners is quickly becoming a tradition. Browner missed the last four games of the 2012 regular season due to a violation of the PED policy (reportedly for Adderall). That didn’t really hurt Seattle, which won its last four games of the 2012 season by a combined score of 170-43. However, Thurmond’s suspension comes at a really inopportune time because Browner is currently out with a groin injury. Pete Carroll said less than a week ago that Browner’s injury involved tissue damage and will force him to sit “4-6 weeks at least.”

That means the Seahawks will need to rely heavily on Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane, the only two other corners on the roster. Maxwell has played 177 snaps, while Lane has only received 36.

Granted, the Seahawks (who are on bye this week) are 10-1, three games up on the 49ers and Cardinals in the loss column. There’s very little chance they’ll lose the NFC West even if the 49ers beat them in San Francisco, but the Saints are a game behind the Seahawks and visit Seattle next Monday so home field advantage could be at stake.

Seattle was without Browner in their Week 2 blowout win over the 49ers, but Thurmond played and only allowed two completions for 15 yards (according to PFF it was Thurmond’s best game of the season, with a score of 3.1).

The 49ers have games against Washington and St. Louis to worry about before facing the Seahawks, but they’ll definitely appreciate the opportunity to see how Maxwell and Lane fare against the Saints. Not that the 49ers have anything close to the kind of passing attack featured by New Orleans, but Michael Crabtree should have at least one game under his belt by Dec. 8.