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Originally published Monday, September 12, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Special teams a big concern for Seahawks

The special teams that were so important to Seattle last season were especially concerning for the Seahawks on Sunday. That's not just because...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — The special teams that were so important to Seattle last season were especially concerning for the Seahawks on Sunday.

That's not just because of the two kicks the 49ers' Ted Ginn returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, either.

The Seahawks committed three penalties on kick returns — one of which was declined — and then there was the punt Leon Washington failed to field, which cost Seattle 15 or more yards of field position in the first half and nearly resulted in a turnover.

It makes you wonder if all the roster changes have diminished the quality of the special-teams units that were this team's biggest strength last season.

"We've got to catch up here," coach Pete Carroll said of Seattle's special-teams play. "Our young guys have got to step up here and be the core players that we need."

That's not going to be any easier this week when Seattle expects to play without fullback Michael Robinson and cornerback Byron Maxwell, who both left Sunday's game because of ankle injuries. While Carroll did not give a timeline for how long either would be out, he indicated neither would be available for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.

"Those guys force us — not being available this week — to have to do some things and shuffle some stuff around," Carroll said. "That will call for some other guys who generally don't have to be called up on the first team of special teams to step up and play."

Robinson is a special teams co-captain along with Washington. Maxwell, a rookie from Clemson, had made an impact, especially on coverage units.

Robinson is the only fullback on Seattle's roster, and after his injury, tight end Zach Miller had to assume some of the fullback's blocking responsibilities. Carroll said the Seahawks have already begun discussing if they may need to add another fullback.

Seattle was previously interested in fullback Mike Karney, a graduate of Kentwood High School. Karney played with St. Louis the past two seasons, and he visited the Seahawks twice in the six weeks before the regular season, but Seattle is unlikely to bring Karney aboard now.

Gallery's return

still uncertain

Robert Gallery missed Seattle's first game of the season because of a sprained knee. He ran on Monday, Carroll said, but whether he can return this week remains uncertain.

"We've got to wait and see," Carroll said. "They'll work him out again (Tuesday) to see if he can practice on Wednesday. We don't know that yet."

Same goes for Sidney Rice, Carroll said. The receiver missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury.

Hawthorne

expected back

David Hawthorne was listed as probable for Sunday's game at San Francisco, but was inactive. He is expected to be available this week, though rookie K.J. Wright played well in Hawthorne's absence.

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