SEATTLE Starting left tackle George Fant exited on the back of a motorized cart, an air cast inflated over his right leg.
And just like that, the Seahawks’ offensive line was back to square one.
At least Kasen Williams continued his starring preseason with another ridiculous catch, his fifth in five days. His sixth reception in two exhibition games was a touchdown, 1 yard from Russell Wilson to end Seattle’s opening drive.
And this time, the Seahawks came to Michael Bennett’s side -- and front -- to support his protest during the national anthem.
Those were the biggest points during the first three quarters Friday night at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks led the Minnesota Vikings 20-6 entering the final period.
Fant’s injury appeared serious. And, for him and the many fond of his amazing story, sad.
He is the most unlikely defensive end in football. An undrafted rookie college basketball power forward from Western Kentucky last year who became a surprise inclusion on the active roster to begins Seattle’s 2016 season. By November, he was starting and the $87.6-million Wilson’s invaluable, blindside protector.
Just Thursday, coach Pete Carroll declared Fant as one of three sure things on the Seahawks’ iffy, concerning offensive line. Carroll named Fant, who gained 25 pounds and infinite wisdom and confidence over the last eight months, his starting left tackle. Carroll also said Luke Joeckel will be the starting left guard when the games get real Sept. 10 at Green Bay, joining standout center Justin Britt.
But now three-fifths of Seattle’s line is in doubt again -- as is Fant’s chance at starting for a full season for the first time since youth football.
Trainers and team doctor Jonathan Drezner rushed to Fant’s side after the 6-foot-5, 322-pound behemoth had Britt fall on the back of his right leg. The contact came after Britt was helping Joeckel finish a block, and while Fant was still blocking Minnesota defensive end Tashawn Bower.
Fant layed on his back, both arms extended across the turf in what appeared to be equal pain and frustration. As trainers used a hand pump to inflate the cast over his right leg and the motorized cart arrived, Wilson and the entire offense came over to comfort Fant. The Seahawks announced he had a knee injury.
What wasn’t comforting, at all: Rees Odhiambo replaced Fant at left tackle. Last year’s third-round draft choice has struggled since arriving in Seattle, including this month in training camp and last weekend’s preseason game. Odhiambo held his ground on the first snap after Fant exited, and he finished the first half with the starting offense.
But he allowed two sacks on the first three plays after halftime. Odhiambo also got called for holding twice, the Vikings declined one of those flags.
During the fourth quarter, Fant showed his head -- and hands -- were high. He posted on his Twitter account: “Thank you all for your support” then an emoji with praying hands and “I'm in good hands.”
Luke Joeckel was drafted second overall in 2013 by Jacksonville to be a franchise left tackle. He played that position for the Jaguars until 12 months ago, when they moved him to left guard. He is one option to replace Fant -- a better option than Odhiambo has appeared to be.
Ethan Pocic could be an option, too. The rookie second-round draft choice has been the backup right tackle this month. He’s also practiced at right guard and was LSU’s center in college.
If Joeckel moves out to left tackle, Jordan Roos could become the left guard. The undrafted rookie has been the second-team left guard behind Joeckel.
Or the Seahawks could move either veteran Oday Aboushi or third-year man Mark Glowinski to left guard. Glowinski was the Seahawks’ starting left guard last season before the team moved him to his college position of right guard this offseason.
Before kickoff, Bennett again protested the treatment of minorities in this country during the national anthem.
The Pro Bowl defensive end sat again on Seattle’s bench behind a line of teammates, coaches and staff during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Bennett has vowed to sit all season, or at least until he sees “equality and freedom” for all minorities in our country.
But unlike last weekend before the preseason opener at the Los Angeles Chargers, Bennett was not alone.
Noticeably, one of the Seahawks’ leading white players came to Bennett’s side. Britt, a Pro Bowl alternate last season who signed a three-year, $27 million contract extension on Thursday, stood on Bennett’s left. Britt’s right arm was extended with his hand on the seated Bennett’s left shoulder.
And veteran defensive back Jeremy Lane stood a few feet in front of Bennett -- with his back to the field and the giant flag being held by Puget Sound-area Navy personnel in uniform.
Last August, Lane sat on the Seahawks’ bench during the anthem just before a preseason game at Oakland.
Britt coming over was particularly significant; Bennett said this week NFL player protest for minorities in America would not truly gain momentum and possibly affect change unless white players get involved. Britt is one of the Seahawks’ most accomplished white players.
Once the game began, Eddie Lacy ran six times for 20 yards as the lead running back. Thomas Rawls sat out the game with a sprained ankle Carroll has termed minor.
Lacy, the 2013 NFL offensive rookie of the year with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle’s biggest offseason acquisition, has 30 yards on 10 carries through two preseason games.
The starting offense gained 241 yards on 34 plays, 7.1 yards per play. But the running game remains stalled. It managed 48 yards on 15 rushes, including one carry for two yards by Wilson and a kneel-down to end the half. That average of 3.2 yards per rush, after 2.8 by the running backs last weekend, won’t cut in a 2017 regular season when the Seahawks want to return to their rushing roots.
Yet Wilson completed 13 of 18 throws for a whopping 206 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. That was a tidy passer rating of 147.0 -- 158.3 is perfect. He was sacked once, for a 13-yard loss, when right tackle Germain Ifedi got smoked outside by Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Through two preseason games, Wilson is 16 for 22 for 247 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. He has a passer rating this preseason of 139.8. He has been sacked once in 25 drop backs.
Trevone Boykin played two drives of the third quarter. Blair Walsh ended those with two field goals, the second one from 52 yards against his former team. Walsh hit the crossbar while missing from 53 yards in the first half. He made all six of his extra points and both his field-goal attempts last weekend against the Chargers.
Seattle’s first drive after halftime came after rookie running back Chris Carson continued his standout month. The seventh-round pick from Oklahoma State ran like he always does -- fast, and in a straight line -- to get down quickly on the second-half kickoff and force a fumble on the return by Minnesota’s Rodney Adams. Reserve defensive end David Bass recovered the ball for Seattle at the Vikings 18.
Boykin’s second drive went backwards -- four plays, minus-16 yards. That’s because Odhiambo allowed two sacks, the second one while being called for holding.
The Vikings pass rushers gave Seahawks’ offensive tackles trouble throughout the night with extra-wide rushes and speed to the outside.
The starting defense -- with rookie third-round pick Shaquill Griffin starting again at right cornerback -- was only marginally better than it was last weekend to begin the game. After allowing the Chargers’ starters a 13-play, 75-yard drive to a touchdown five days earlier, Seattle allowed quarterback Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ starters to go 76 yards in 11 plays. Minnesota got to the Seattle 12 before stalling, thanks in part to Michael Bennett’s stop of rookie running back Dalvin Cook for no gain. The Vikings settled for a field goal to make it 7-3.
Seattle allowed 169 yards -- 131 through the air by Bradford and Case Keenum -- and two field goals in the first half.