Updated Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 01:39 AM
RENTON — Is the Seahawks defense, after allowing an NFL-low 245 points in the regular season, getting even stronger entering the playoffs?
That scary proposition is possible after the Seahawks welcomed back some key players to practice Wednesday.
The most notable return ahead of Sunday's playoff game at Washington was cornerback Brandon Browner from a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Linebacker Leroy Hill is back after missing Sunday's regular-season finale, and cornerback Marcus Trufant continues his steady progress — both from hamstring injuries.
"We're very fortunate right now; (we're) in very good shape," said coach Pete Carroll.
The biggest boost might come from Browner, and not just because he's 6 feet 4.
The 2011 Pro Bowl cornerback started the first 12 games before the suspension, and his hard-hitting nature helps set the tone for a smashmouth defensive backfield. His six passes defended still rank second on the team, and his three interceptions are tied for second.
"Getting Brandon Browner back is a big deal to us," Carroll said. "He's been a big part of what we've done here and he's been a significant factor in the style that we play. So he comes back, and we'll see how he does. It's been a month, so we'll see how (rusty) he is."
The Seahawks will also take a close look at Hill this week to see if he's ready to regain his starting role, having missed three of the past five games. Malcolm Smith has started in his place.
Having Trufant healthy again brings the Seattle defense close to full strength. The main losses have been cornerback Walter Thurmond and defensive lineman Jason Jones, two key reserves out for the season.
The Seahawks, who ranked fourth in total defense, have already made an impression on their playoff opponent from afar.
"Anytime you're ranked No. 1 in the NFL in the fewest points given up, it kind of says it all: You've been playing consistent football throughout the whole year, both in run defense and pass defense," said Washington coach Mike Shanahan. "They do an excellent job. Very well coached."
Quarterback Robert Griffin III called the Seahawks defense "tough" and "physical."
"They play fast, they play with a lot of energy, they play with a chip on their shoulder," Griffin added, "so they are something we've got to be ready for."
Trufant not looking back
One of Trufant's career highlights came in a game against Washington in the 2007 postseason — a dazzling 78-yard interception return for a touchdown to help cap a 35-14 victory.
"That's ancient history, just a part of Seahawks history," the veteran cornerback said. "If you focus on things in the past, I would say you let things slip in the present. I'm looking forward, and I'm just trying to get better."
• WR Sidney Rice (knee) and OT Breno Giacomini (elbow) each practiced Wednesday after being limited last week.
• Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player listed on Seattle's first injury report of the week. He was a limited participant with a back issue but is expected to be available Sunday.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
Brandon Browner missed four games.