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Originally published Friday, September 4, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Seahawks still undecided on kicker

Olindo Mare was a Seahawk for a second consecutive preseason, even though younger, drafted kicker Brandon Coutu was also on the roster again.

AP Sports Writer


Olindo Mare was a Seahawk for a second consecutive preseason, even though younger, drafted kicker Brandon Coutu was also on the roster again.

To which the 36-year-old accomplished veteran says, so what?

"Well, I did sign a two-year contract," Mare said incredulously.

Whether Seattle honors the second season of that deal or finally chooses Coutu, a seventh-round pick in 2008 so valued he was on the roster last season as a rare backup kicker, is one of the decisions the Seahawks must make by Saturday afternoon's deadline to set a 53-man roster for the regular season.

Team president Tim Ruskell has said Seattle won't carry two kickers again this season.

Mare made his only field goal try Thursday night in the preseason finale against Oakland. He also boomed a kickoff 5 yards into the end zone for a touchback, recalling his strength from last season, then sent another bounding over the head of a returner for a second touchback.

Mare, a former Miami Dolphins standout who made 89 percent of his field goals for Seattle in 2008, finished three exhibitions 1 for 3 on field goals. A sore kicking knee kept him out of the preseason opener last month.

Coutu's kickoffs reached the 7 and the 5 Thursday. Coutu was 4 for 5 on field goals in the preseason, including 1 of 2 from 50-plus yards.

Which do the Seahawks value more: field goals, or field position from touchbacks?

"That's a good question," coach Jim Mora said, adding his staff was spending all Friday figuring that out. "I can't tell you now."

Three other starting positions have been decided.

Mora announced rookie Max Unger will start at right guard over veteran backup Mansfield Wrotto. Unger, a second-round draft choice who was an All-Pac-10 center at Oregon last year, impressed the Seahawks with how quickly he picked up the new offense.


"He has good balance. He's smart. He's a good pass protector. He's very versatile," Mora said. "We believe he is ready to start and be a productive player in this league immediately. ... He didn't look like a rookie."

So the patchwork offensive line for the opener Sept. 13 against St. Louis will have Sean Locklear at left tackle for the injured Walter Jones, Rob Sims at left guard after Mike Wahle failed a training camp physical, Steve Vallos at center for the injured Chris Spencer, plus Unger and tackle Ray Willis on the right side.

Justin Griffith started at fullback over Owen Schmitt against Oakland. Griffith has an advantage over the second-year man: Griffith knows the new zone-blocking and one-cut-and-go running schemes of first-year offensive coordinator Greg Knapp better. He was Knapp and Mora's fullback in Atlanta from 2004-06.

And Josh Wilson will apparently start at cornerback for Marcus Trufant, the 2007 Pro Bowler who may go on the physically unable to perform list Saturday and thus miss the first six games of the season. Wilson sat out Thursday's game with the rest of the starting defense, other than top draft pick Aaron Curry.

Former Oregon star Jordan Kent hurt his chances to become a final wide receiver, while Ben Obomanu seemed to seize that spot.

In the first half, Kent had a third-down pass go off his hands in a battle with Oakland's Justin Miller over the middle. Then he was carted off the field with an injury to his left foot or ankle in the third quarter. After the game, Kent was on crutches.

Obomanu made an impressive reaching catch while toeing the sideline in the end zone on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Mike Teel.

"It's tough to say because Jordan got hurt. That certainly hurt his chances to show us what he can do," Mora said. "I thought Courtney Taylor did some good things. I thought Ben did some really nice things."

Baraka Atkins did not. The fourth-round pick in 2007, battling impressive, undersized rookie Nick Reed for a job as a backup defensive end, pushed Oakland's Bruce Gradkowski in the back two steps after the Raiders' third-stringer threw incomplete from his end zone in the second quarter.

Instead of third-and-10 from its 4, Oakland got a first down on Atkins' roughing-the-passer penalty. Mora dropped his head toward the turf and shook it after that gaffe.

Atkins also lined up offside in the third quarter.

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