RENTON, Wash. – The Seahawks got out their wallets when free agency opened this summer, mostly spending on players they hope will upgrade the offense. When the season opens Sunday, however, two of Seattle’s top free agents likely won’t be on the field.
Guard Robert Gallery and receiver Sidney Rice are both listed as doubtful to play against San Francisco, Gallery because of a knee sprain sustained in the final preseason game, and Rice because of a shoulder injury that occurred in training camp.
“You never know when he wakes up but most likely, he’s not going to make it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Gallery. “… Sidney, he’s doubtful going into the game as well.”
Both are big losses for an offense that struggled throughout the preseason.
Rice, a Pro Bowler in 2009, figures to be the favorite target of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson given their history together – they were teammates for four years in Minnesota – while Gallery is the veteran voice of an otherwise young offensive line, and also the lineman most familiar with the blocking schemes because he played for line coach Tom Cable in Oakland.
With Rice likely out, that will mean a start for Ben Obomanu, who emerged as a starter last season.
The situation on the line is a bit more complicated, however. James Carpenter, Seattle’s first-round pick who spent the entire preseason at right tackle, has been working at left guard this week. The rookie seems like the most likely option at that spot, assuming Gallery doesn’t play, but another option is backup lineman Paul McQuistan. And whether or not Carpenter plays guard Sunday, it seems likely that Breno Giacomini, who has spent much of his first three seasons on practice squads, will start at right tackle.
“That’s the way it’s looking,” Carroll said. “The way we’ve practiced is the way it’s looking. I just want to hold out until we get to game time and make sure we use every day possible to figure it out.”
If the Seahawks indeed go with Carpenter at left guard and Giacomini at right tackle, that means the five starters on the line will have a grand total of 27 career starts between them: 17 by center Max Unger, 14 of which came at guard, and 10 by left tackle Russell Okung.
“It is what it is,” Carroll said. “There’s no reason to spend any time on it… We’re just young. That’s what it is. I’m thrilled about that. In one way to look at it, if these guys can go out there and play NFL football this early and if we can hold up and start growing, we’re going to get way better.”
The news is better for Seattle’s defense, which should be at or near full strength. Defensive end Chris Clemons, who led the team with 11 sacks last season, is listed as probable after injuring his ankle earlier in the week. Clemons rolled his ankle in Thursday’s walkthrough and sat out that day’s and Friday’s practice.
“He’s going to be fine,” Carroll said. “We gave him the day off here. He just turned his ankle a little bit yesterday but he’ll be all right.”
Middle linebacker David Hawthorne is also listed as probable after being limited all week with a knee injury. Carroll said Hawthorne is ready to go, but has not yet decided who will start. With Hawthorne limited, rookie K.J. Wright took the bulk of the reps in practice this week, and is an option to start according to Carroll.
“K.J. is ready to play the whole game if we need him to,” Carroll said. “He’s had a tremendous preparation. He’s really been impressive. We feel very confident about him starting a game. If we start him in this game, he’ll be fine.”