By Greg Bell The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Per NFL tradition, this really was as real as an exhibition game gets for the Seahawks, at least regarding who showed up.
Unlike in the previous two exhibition games, Seattle had all healthy players in uniform and available Friday night for the third exhibition game, against Chicago at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle left about a baker’s dozen of veterans home for the exhibition opener at Denver early this month. Last week at home against San Diego, left tackle Russell Okung sat out despite having been back at practice for a week following offseason surgery on his toe and foot.
Okung started Friday. It was the first time Seattle has its starting line on the field for a “game” since February’s Super Bowl. Okung was out for the first part of the Seahawks’ 14-play drive to its second touchdown of the first quarter, with July free-agent acquisition Eric Winston replacing him. When Okung reentered for a first-and-goal play at the 3, he was limping somewhat. But he finished the drive that ended with Russell Wilson scrambling past him for an 8-yard touchdown run.
For the third drive, early in the second quarter, Winston replaced Okung and Lemuel Jeanpierre replaced starting center Max Unger. The rest of Seattle’s starting offense, with the exception of usual outside linebacker K.J. Wright started at middle linebacker while Bobby Wagner remained out with a hamstring injury. That hints that the versatile, valuable Wright, who has played in the middle before during the regular season on a fill-in basis, could be a Plan B if Wagner is not ready to start the regular season.
Wagner participated in pregame warmups with his teammates Friday. And coach Pete Carroll said Thursday the team hopes to have Wagner back practicing next week before Thursday’s exhibition finale at Oakland.
Big test cancelled
Chicago defensive end Jared Allen, the pass-rushing menace formerly with Minnesota whom the Bears signed in the offseason to a $32 million contract, was not in uniform because of a shoulder injury. That meant Okung, rookie right tackle Justin Britt and backup tackles Alvin Bailey and Eric Winston didn’t get the big challenge they expected.
The list of those who were not in uniform Friday didn’t have any surprises; all have been injured: WR David Gilreath, WR/PR Bryan Walters, CB A.J. Jefferson, CB Eric Pinkins, LB Horace Miller, LB Bruce Irvin, LB Bobby Wagner, G C.J. Davis, DT Jimmy Staten, DT Michael Brooks and WR Kevin Norwood.
… Walters hadn’t practiced all week after hurting his ribs running fearlessly up the field in traffic on punt returns last week against the Chargers. Sitting out Friday stopped the momentum he had gained in the job. Much to the dismay of the risk-averse, All-Pro safety Earl Thomas again was the Seahawk back to return the first Bears punts. Thomas had a 59-yard return down the left sideline in the second quarter, though he’s surely already hearing about it from teammates that Chicago’s punter brought him down at the Bears 16. … Cooper Helfet, who got off to a strong start in training camp in the competition to become the No. 3 TE, left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. … TE Luke Willson got evaluated for a possible concussion in the third quarter but came back to play on the first offensive drive after halftime. … Undrafted rookie MLB Brock Coyle from Montana, the star of camp filling in for Wagner as the starter in the first two exhibitions, left in the second quarter with an injury to his right foot. He got his ankle and foot turned at the end of a kickoff return.