Seahawks shuffling as injuries to starters mount

RENTON, Wash. --- Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider spent their first seven months in charge of the Seattle Seahawks shuffling around players, trying to find the right mix for their system.

And now that the Seahawks' roster finally found some stability, they're back to making all kinds of changes.

This time it's because of a long list of key injuries.

"The main thing for me to convey to these players and to this team is it's not the guys that aren't playing, it's the guys that are playing," Carroll said Wednesday. "So they've got to do a great job during the week of getting prepared, and we've got to fit a game plan around the guys, just like we always do, to the things that they can do well."

Seven starters for the Seahawks did not participate in practice Wednesday, none bigger than quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, as he recovers from a concussion.

Nearly equal to Hasselbeck's absence is a continuing shuffle of Seattle's offensive line.

Carroll hoped rookie left tackle Russell Okung would be able to return on Wednesday from the high-ankle sprain suffered two weeks ago against Arizona. But Okung was again a spectator, along with center Chris Spencer, out with an unspecified neck injury.

Tyler Polumbus, who started the first three games of the season while Okung was out with a high-ankle sprain on his left leg, also didn't practice Wednesday. He has a knee injury.

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Seattle also lost starting left guard Ben Hamilton for the season when he suffered a significant concussion in Sunday's 33-3 loss to Oakland. Carroll said medical staff indicated that with Hamilton's past concussion history, placing him on injured reserve and ending his season was clearly the best move.

"He gave us a tremendous effort to this point, and we're going to miss the heck out of him," Carroll said. "But it's the right thing to do, and I feel really good about the fact that we've come to this decision for him, because he'd battle it and try to fight his way right back out there. So he knows it's the right thing, but he wants to fight it anyway."

With questions about left tackle, Chester Pitts worked at that position Wednesday and said afterward he's preparing as if he'll start there Sunday against the New York Giants.

But that's not where Pitts is most comfortable. Last Sunday was his first action since September 2009 -- he had microfracture knee surgery -- and he said he hasn't played left tackle since 2005.

"If my number's called, I'll be ready to go, and then if not, I'll move back inside and play left guard," Pitts said. "But right now (Okung) couldn't go today, so I prepared today like I'm playing left tackle."

Although the problems are significant on the offensive line, they're equally troubling on the defensive line, on which Seattle is assured of being down two starters against the Giants.

Both starting tackles -- Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole -- could be out this week. Cole, who suffered an ankle injury against Oakland, is the only player Carroll ruled out Wednesday. Mebane has missed the previous three games with a calf injury.

Seattle also is without defensive end Red Bryant, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Oakland when teammate Chris Clemons crashed into him.

Former San Francisco first-rounder Kentwan Balmer will take Bryant's spot, and Junior Siavii will step in for Cole. Seattle's defensive line will lose about 30 pounds.

"This is nothing new. One man down, somebody has got to step up," Siavii said. "It's a great opportunity. It came with a bad cause, but at the same time, it's part of the business."

Seattle wide receiver Mike Williams also sat out Wednesday with a sore knee. About the only good news for the Seahawks was the return of cornerbacks Kelly Jennings and Walter Thurmond after they missed the loss to Oakland.

Carroll said his constant message of guys needing to lift their play when someone else goes down is of the utmost importance this week.

"As any opportunity came up to point it out, this is a mindset about guys elevating their game and playing up," Carroll said. "We've had guys that have done a good job of that so far, but now this is a little bit more substantial."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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