The Seahawks’ offensive line could have a new, fill-in leader making its blocking calls this weekend.
Two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger has a sprained foot and his status is “day-to-day,” coach Pete Carroll said, four days before Seattle (3-1) hosts the Dallas Cowboys (4-1).
An hour or so after Carroll said that Wednesday, Seattle announced it had signed second-year center Patrick Lewis off Cleveland’s practice squad.
Teams usually don’t sign players off other teams’ practice squads without the intent of using them, because they go directly onto the acquiring team’s active roster. So the signing of Lewis indicates the Seahawks feel that unsure about Unger playing Sunday that they waived Josh Thomas off of the previously thin defensive back corps to make room for Lewis.
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Unger missed the final three plays of the Seahawks’ next-to-last offensive drive Monday night at Washington, then returned for the final possession. Carroll thought after the game Unger was OK. But Wednesday the coach was far more guarded in assessing whether Unger will play against the Cowboys.
“(We’ll) see how that goes,” Carroll said.
Stephen Schilling filled in for Unger for the three plays of that drive to a fourth-quarter score Monday night at Washington. It was his first NFL game at center in 22 career contests over four seasons for the former star at Bellevue High School and the University of Michigan.
“It happened so fast I really didn’t have a chance to think about it,” Schilling said.
Seattle moved him to center from guard in mid-August, and he has been Unger’s backup since the team lost Lemuel Jeanpierre for the season last month to a nerve issue in his neck. Jeanpierre got an injury settlement in the form of a cash payment from the Seahawks and is now a free agent. Depending on the settlement terms, Jeanpierre may not be able to sign with another team for a certain number of weeks into the regular season.
Schilling, a former Charger for three seasons, first played center in the NFL for San Diego’s practice squad during last season.
He said if he needs to start for Unger Sunday, “I’ll be as ready as I need to.”
Asked how viable Schilling is as an option to start for Unger on Sunday, if necessary, Carroll said: “Oh, he’s ready to go.”
The coach added the Seahawks are “really excited” with how Schilling has progressed at center.
Lewis, 23, was Johnny Manziel’s center when both played for Texas A&M. The Seahawks signed him onto their preseason roster Aug. 27. That was the day before the final exhibition game, at Oakland. The 6-foot-1, 311-pound Lewis played plenty in that game, then got released as part of Seattle’s final preseason cuts on Aug. 30.
He’s been with Jacksonville, Cleveland and Green Bay since last season but has yet to play in a regular-season game.
Seattle’s offensive line had six penalties at Washington, two of which negated touchdowns by Percy Harvin. The flags included false starts on Russell Okung (twice) and Unger, holding on Okung and guard James Carpenter and a still-curious unnecessary roughness call in pass protection on Carpenter.
“Those penalties, that’s what’s on everybody’s mind,” Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable said following Wednesday’s practice. “That’s why we are having this discussion right now.”
The Seahawks are trying to learn from the league exactly what Carpenter did to negate Wilson’s 41-yard touchdown pass to Harvin, one of the few times this season the line has given its quarterback plenty of time to look far downfield for a big pass.
Carpenter appeared to have pinned his man on the back with a crunching pass block before he rolled off and found a penalty flag flying at him.
“When you are finishing (a block) it’s a judgment call — always,” Cable said. “We’re not going to change how we play. We have a style, and that’s how we do it.”
Cable, the former head coach in Oakland, has been through sending plays to the league office for review and response many times. He thinks he knows what word he’ll get on this one.
“It’ll come back, ‘Is it necessary to play that hard?’ ” Cable said with a straight face.
All-Pro safety Earl Thomas had a theory why that Harvin touchdown got called back in what at the time was a seven-point game in the fourth quarter at Washington.
“I think it is Monday Night Football, you know the fans are watching and everybody wants to see a good game,” Thomas said. “So they are going to try to make it as close as possible. It’s a business.”
The Seahawks’ practice participation report following a very light walk-through practice less than 24 hours after the team’s return from Washington listed the following as not participating: RB Marshawn Lynch (rest), Max Unger, CB Tharold Simon (still coming back from knee surgery last month — he’s “close” to returning, Carroll said — and T Alvin Bailey (oblique). … TE Zach Miller is out for Sunday. Carroll said Miller is at least two weeks away from now to returning. He had ankle surgery two weeks ago.