Okung set to practice Wednesday for Seahawks
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
RENTON – It’s been five months since the Seattle Seahawks drafted offensive tackle Russell Okung with the No. 6 overall pick, and they still haven’t seen what the Oklahoma State product can do in a meaningful game.
But that all could change this week with Okung scheduled to begin practice Wednesday, with the possibility he could play in Sunday’s game at St. Louis.
However, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and the rest of the organization are taking a cautious approach with Okung. Out with a high-ankle sprain since the team’s second exhibition game against Green Bay on Aug. 21, Okung began running and working on his stance and starts with the team last week.
“Russell has only had five days of practice, so he’s a long ways from being in the groove,” Carroll said. “So we’re just going to have to bring him along and see what the information tells us, Wednesday, Thursday, (and) Friday, and see where we go.
“Just because he’s healthy doesn’t mean he’s starting. And that’s for anybody. We’re just going to wait and see how guys fit in and how they look as they come back, but it’s still a boost for us. We’ve been waiting for the big fella to get back in there.”
Part of Carroll’s reason for a conservative approach with Okung has been the play of the current left tackle Tyler Polumbus and the rest of the offensive line. Seattle has given up only five sacks in three games, and they have shown signs of running the ball better over the past two games.
Further, at 2-1 and tied for the NFC West Division lead with Arizona, Seattle has Sunday’s game against the Rams before its bye week, so Okung could get an extra two weeks of rest to make sure he’s healthy before returning to the field.
Okung isn’t the only offensive lineman who could make his season debut Sunday. Veteran offensive tackle Chester Pitts is expected to play as well.
A versatile player signed just before training camp, Pitts is returning from microfracture knee surgery that cut short his 2009 season in Houston.
The 31-year-old has been practicing with the team on a limited basis for the last month, slowly working his way back into playing shape.
Carroll said the expectation is that Pitts, who started 114 consecutive games for the Texans before suffering a knee injury in the second game last season, will play Sunday. Pitts had been considered as a possible replacement for Okung at left tackle but also will see time at his more natural position of left guard.
With Okung and Pitts in the fold, the Seahawks will finally be at full strength on the offensive line for the first time this season.
“It’s going to be exciting, for the first time we’re going to see Russell Okung and Chester Pitts out there together playing and practicing for the first time,” Carroll said. “Those guys are coming back from injury situations, but that’s an exciting thing for us on the offensive side.”
INTO THE FIRE
Carroll said Walter Thurmond will remain the replacement at left cornerback if starter Marcus Trufant does not return from an ankle injury this week.
Carroll said he likes the way former Washington Husky Roy Lewis has played as the nickel back on slot receivers and wants to keep him in that role.
When Trufant went down with an injured ankle late against San Diego, Thurmond stepped in and tried to contribute after muffing a punt and turning the ball over the week before in Denver.
The rookie cornerback made seven tackles and deflected a pass in his first serious playing time at cornerback.
“I was trying to redeem myself from last week,” Thurmond said. “After the fumble, I never got a chance to redeem myself in that game. I used it as my fuel to go out there (against San Diego) and show the guys they can trust me out there.”
The Seahawks trusted Thurmond’s ability enough to trade Josh Wilson to Baltimore before the season.
“I’m very proud of him as a rookie coming into a game like that,” veteran safety Lawyer Milloy said. “He was a little wide-eyed there for a little bit. But he played well and gave us a chance to win.”
Carroll listed WR Mike Williams (shoulder), DT Brandon Mebane (calf), CB Trufant (ankle), DE E.J. Wilson (knee) and LB Aaron Curry (hamstring) as the Seattle players dinged up, but at this point none have been ruled out of Sunday’s game. … Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said the offense and defense need to take a look at how the special teams have performed. The Seahawks have the No. 1-ranked kick return and the No. 3-ranked punt return units in terms of yards per return. And kicker Olindo Mare has made 24 consecutive field goals dating back to last year. “Basically, what he’s (Carroll) looking for this team to become is what he’s seeing out of our special-teams unit, something to that effect,” Hasselbeck said. “The way our kickers are kicking, the way guys are going a hundred miles an hour, we’re getting the ball past the 50-yard line, the physical nature, the style, the enthusiasm, all that stuff; the effort, that’s what he’s looking for from the whole team, all phases. Right now, I guess he’s most excited about what he sees out of special teams.”
Staff writer Ryan Divish contributed to this report.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks