RENTON, Wash. – One of the most important players to this Seahawks season has gone largely unmentioned through three weeks of training camp.
Left tackle Russell Okung is fine with that. After the way his past two seasons started, he would actually prefer it. He was injured during Seattle’s first exhibition game each of his first two seasons, so when he made it through the opener Saturday unscathed, it seemed like a good time to ask the big man how he was feeling.
He wasn’t interested in answering that question.
But take it from someone who knows, Okung is a reason to smile so far this year.
“He has done a fine job,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “I’m looking for him to just keep building on it now that he’s kind of accepted the responsibility of playing left tackle and what comes with it.”
That position is one of the cornerstones in NFL today, which is part of the reason Okung, 24, is so important. Seattle chose him with the sixth choice of the 2010 draft – the team’s first choice under coach Pete Carroll – knowing how much they needed someone to play that spot.
His talent has always been apparent. In his second NFL start he pretty much neutralized Chicago’s Julius Peppers, one of football’s premier defensive ends.
The concerns for Okung have been the injuries. He missed six games his rookie year because of injuries to both ankles. He missed the final four games last year after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. That injury obscured some of the progress Cable had seen in his 310-pound tackle.
“I felt like the four weeks prior to his injury last year, we were seeing who he is,” Cable said.
Okung made a breakthrough not because of his ability, but his approach.
“The thing that’s changed for him is how detailed he has become,” Cable said. “I thought before, he was a really talented guy who knew he was talented.
“In this league, there’s so much more to it. And I think with great respect to him, he has really succumbed to that. That it’s not about where they picked me. It’s not about what my talent is. It’s about what I put into it. He has done a marvelous job.”
So far this month, Okung has been perhaps the most impressive player on a line that has made quite an impression.
“Our offensive line play right now, we never had this play any time last year,” Carroll said.