Seahawks’ Carroll says soft field was not a factor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jonathan Stewart’s 59-yard run on a counter play to begin the game was the first of the Carolina Panthers’ many punches to the Seattle Seahawks’ mouths in the runaway first half.

Stewart’s romp was also why middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and many other Seahawks changed the cleats on their shoes to longer, detachable cleats after Carolina’s first drive.

Wagner, fellow linebacker K.J. Wright and others slipped out of their gaps and on their pursuits of Stewart on that run.

“You watch the first play, a lot of guys slipped on the play,” Wagner said. “So I feel like once we settled down we started tackling better, started making plays. But we just didn’t make enough.

“Once we put on other cleats, we were fine.”

The Panthers re-sodded their field a little less than two weeks ago following the end to their regular season and through their bye last week. The field was covered Saturday, then uncovered Sunday morning. The new, thin sod got rain and wet snow on it a few hours before the game, before skies cleared in the afternoon.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said he changed into longer spikes after noticing during pregame warmups the grass was loose.

Carroll was quick to dismiss the field as being a factor in the game’s outcome — “No. Both teams,” he said.

But he did think the soft field was the reason Steven Hauschka’s final onside kick with just over a minute left didn’t bounce as designed.

“The ground is so soft, it is such a soft field, it just didn’t elevate,” Carroll said.

“We needed a couple of feet up. That sometimes happens when you hit it just right. I don’t think that field would allow any better than that.”

Okung injured

Left tackle Russell Okung left the game after Seattle’s first play of the second quarter after Carolina’s Mario Addison pulled Okung’s arm from his shoulder on a pass rush. Okung crumpled as Addison sped in to hit Wilson as he threw an interception to Cortland Finnegan. That set up a Panthers field goal to give Carolina a 24-0 lead.

Carroll said Okung dislocated his shoulder.

Alvin Bailey replaced Okung, and a few plays after Bailey entered got a holding penalty for tackling Panthers defensive end Jared Allen. That negated a 12-yard scramble for a first down by Wilson to the Panthers 13-yard late in the second quarter. Instead, Seattle got pushed back to its own 33, then Doug Baldwin got stopped a half yard short of the first-down marker on fourth down to keep the score 31-0 Carolina.

Okung was Seattle’s sixth-overall draft choice in 2010. He just finished the final year of his contract that paid him $4.8 million this season and counted a hefty $7.28 million against the salary cap. With the premium paid to left tackles in the league, Seattle is unlikely to commit to the free-agent market rate for the 27-year-old Okung, who has struggled with injuries and speed rushers the last couple season.

Okung is one of 25 players whose contracts ended Sunday. The list also includes: defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, linebacker Bruce Irvin (who spent much of Sunday on the sidelines apparently not injured while Mike Morgan played for him), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and guard J.R. Sweezy.

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