Injury issues on Seahawks' offensive line tough to block out
Center Chris Spencer's torn quadriceps that will keep him from starting the regular season is the latest in a string of worrisome injuries on the Seahawks' offensive line.
Seattle Times NFL reporter
5 questions with ...John Owens
LB., 6-3, 255, Age: 29
Seattle signed Owens as a free agent from Detroit, where he played in all 16 games last season. A fifth-round choice in the 2002 draft, Owens is entering his eighth season in the NFL and the Seahawks will be the fifth team he has played for. Considered a block-first tight end with 19 career NFL catches, he showed great footwork on a touchdown catch in Seattle's exhibition opener in San Diego.
Seattle Times: What's the worst job you've ever had?
Owens: Well, I haven't had too many. Shoveling snow from the driveways at home in the winter, trying to make some money back in Maryland. There were no snow-blowers or anything like that so you had to shovel.
ST: What's the first thing you bought with your first NFL paycheck?
Owens: A TV. Thirty-six inches.
ST: What's the worst car you've ever had?
Owens: Never had one that's bad. I didn't get my first car until right before I graduated, a 2001 Tahoe. It was 2002 so that was a pretty new truck.
ST: Who was on the first poster you hung on your wall?
Owens: That's easy, Michael Jordan.
ST: You played high-level high-school basketball. When did you know that football was your future?
Owens: Probably about my junior year in high school. I was playing both and getting recruited to play both, but I wasn't getting any taller. I was getting wider and bigger. Then I found out point guards in the NBA were my height, and I knew that I wasn't going to be handling the ball.
The Seahawks ended last season with all five members of their starting offensive line injured.
They're not going to begin this season all that much healthier.
Three-fifths of last year's starting offensive line is currently out, and the holes in Seattle's running game have been bigger than the holes the linemen have opened for Seattle's running game.
The Seahawks are limping sufficiently that they reportedly will add Edgerrin James, a running back who's only 31 years old but coming off the least productive of his 10 NFL seasons. Throw in a Saturday exhibition game most notable for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck absorbing three sacks without spontaneously combusting and it doesn't take a magnifying glass to see the Seahawks have an issue up front.
Big issues, actually. The offensive line that once was this team's identity has become an anatomy lesson on the many different ways football players get hurt.
Center Chris Spencer won't be ready for the start of the regular season because of a slightly torn quadriceps, the Seahawks are more than a week away from knowing even a timeline for Walter Jones' return from knee surgery, and guard Mike Wahle didn't even make it to the season after he failed to recover from shoulder surgery.
Is this August apocalypse just a continuation of the bad juju from last season's injury-riddled season?
"I just refuse to think in those terms," coach Jim Mora said. "I don't think it does any of us any good — and when I say us, I mean coaches and players. I don't want an atmosphere where we're worried about who's not playing."
Coaches don't win games by cursing fate or coming up snake-bitten. They win by placing a fire poker of motivation onto the hindquarters of the players expected to step into the vacancies. One man's absence is another man's opportunity.
"I'm not really trying to fool anybody," Mora said. "I'm just trying to convince people — especially the people that play for us — that, 'Hey man, buckle up, let's go.'
"We can't cancel the season. We can't postpone the game. It is what it is, let's go. Let's roll."
This is Steve Vallos' opportunity to prove he's a starting center in the league. Max Unger will get a chance to get on the field as a guard sooner rather than later if he beats out Mansfield Wrotto. An injury turned out to be the opportunity for Sean Locklear to prove himself as a starter. He became Seattle's right tackle after Floyd Womack suffered an injury to his triceps in August 2005, or was it Womack's toe? Or his knee? No, it was definitely his triceps. It was always so tough to tell with Pork Chop, a one-man index of all sorts of maladies.
That Womack was Seattle's most durable lineman last season says all you need to know about the health of everyone else, and 2009 hasn't begun much better.
Of the five players who will start on the offensive line Saturday, only one has started more than 20 NFL games: Locklear. He has 53 starts; left guard Rob Sims is next with 20. The remaining three starters won't have more than 20 NFL starts combined.
The Seahawks' line is going to be green, and not that nuclear-cabbage green that's part of the team's color scheme. This green will be inexperience. Seattle will begin the season without its Pro Bowl cornerstone in Jones and without the center that was showing signs he might live up to the faith Seattle showed, choosing him in the first round of the 2005 draft.
Spencer is very athletic for a center, his mobility a trait that would be accentuated in the Seahawks' zone-blocking scheme. And this year, he was finally healthy. He underwent shoulder surgery after the 2006 season and recovery from that procedure lingered into training camp. Last year, a disk injury that first flared up in training camp and later worsened, knocking him out of the final five games.
This year, Spencer was finally healthy, "was" being the operative word.
Now that he's out, it's up to the depth of Seattle's young linemen to keep injuries to players like Spencer and Jones from becoming a curse.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
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About Danny O'Neil
Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
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