Seahawks' O-line bolstered with Okung, Pitts back at practice

RENTON, Wash. -- The returns of Chester Pitts and Russell Okung to practice this week moves the Seattle Seahawks closer to having the offensive line they expected when the season began.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that Pitts and Okung will participate in practice this week, the first major test for both as they come back from significant injuries.

"It's just going to take them one day at a time and see how they look and how they endure what happens during practice, how they feel next day," Carroll said.

Pitts is trying to be fully healthy after undergoing microfracture knee surgery during the offseason. Okung, the No. 6 overall pick in the April draft and Seattle's replacement for team legend Walter Jones at left tackle, has been slowed by a high ankle sprain suffered in Seattle's second preseason game.

As Carroll pointed out Wednesday, contract negotiations that cost Okung the first week of training camp means Seattle's $58 million investment has participated in just a handful of practices so far. Offensive line coach Art Valero described Okung as "rusty" after Wednesday's session.

"Russell has practiced five times with us. And all these months that have passed by without him, maybe seven, eight weeks maybe, that is a lot of time missed," Carroll said. "No matter how hard you study the timing of it and the physical sense of working with your guys next to you and passing things off, and there is so much to be accomplished, he's in a far different situation."

The Seahawks' linemen declined to talk Wednesday.

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Without two expected starters, the makeshift offensive line has done a solid job protecting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck but is struggling to establish the team's running game.

Tyler Polumbus arrived from the Detroit Lions less than two weeks before the Seahawks' season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, and he has, for the most part, gone unnoticed at left tackle. With Okung just in the beginning stages of practicing again, it's likely Polumbus will start this weekend against the St. Louis Rams, although Carroll said those decisions might not be made until Saturday.

The combination of Mike Gibson, who was released Tuesday, and Ben Hamilton started in Seattle's first three games at left guard. Hamilton didn't participate in Wednesday's practice because of a knee injury.

The Seahawks have allowed just five sacks in the first three games, but they're averaging just 84.7 yards per game on the ground.

"I'm most excited about the potential of this improving up front," Carroll said. "Without question, we should be able to get better, and that's hugely important to us. We haven't run the ball the way we want to yet, we pass-protected fine, as we talked about, but we have a chance with Russell getting back in there -- he's our No. 1 pick, and he looked great in all of the work that he had -- so we're really excited about him coming back when he's ready."

Pitts started 114 games for the Houston Texans, first as a left tackle and then in 2006 as a left guard. A 2002 second-round pick for the Texans, Pitts came to Seattle to rejoin former Houston line coach Alex Gibbs, who suddenly retired before the season.

Pitts missed the final 14 weeks last season after he had surgery on his right knee. Although Carroll might not make a decision on how much either plays until Saturday, having them out there helps with continuity.

"It's good to have Russell back and practicing today, and same thing with Chester," Valero said. "Having those two back, they've been here, but they've missed a lot of playing time, and there is a lot of catching up to do."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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