SEATTLE – With Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Sean Locklear out for at least the final two exhibitions, the Seahawks now have Florida State bookends on each side of their offensive line.
Walter Jones, of course, is playing left tackle. But with Locklear spraining a knee in Saturday’s 29-26 overtime victory over the Chicago Bears, Jones will now be joined on the opposite side by fellow Seminole Ray Willis, now in his fourth season.
“Basically I just want to come in and help the offensive line any way I can,” Willis said. “I want to be the guy we can depend on and just continue to work hard and practice hard.”
Though Locklear was scheduled to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on his left knee on Sunday, the Seahawks will not disclose the results until today.
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Saturday night that he expects Locklear to miss at least the final two exhibition games, in San Diego and against Oakland, but will know more after the MRI. Locklear missed a day of practice last week with tendinitis, then sprained his knee in the first quarter.
“I talked to Lock,” Willis said. “He seemed very upbeat about the situation. You never want to see somebody get hurt, but he said he was just going to take a little time off.”
This will be Willis’ first chance to start. In truth, the team has never really been able to find a spot for him.
He was drafted out of Florida State as a tackle, but the Seahawks worked him out last training camp as a guard, hoping perhaps that he could take over the starting spot from veteran Chris Gray.
He injured his knee on a kickoff return against San Francisco in the fourth week of the season and never really found a role again. This season, with the acquisition of Mike Wahle and the move of Rob Sims to right guard, Willis has been playing both tackle spots again.
“Right now they have me working at right tackle primarily, and I feel comfortable there – but whatever the team needs me to do I can do,” Willis said.
Sims, who is not completely comfortable making the transition from the left to the right side, said that Locklear has made it easier. But, he said, he thinks Willis will do fine there.
“Being on that side is different, and it has my balance off a little bit, but it is much easier when you have a good player playing next to you, somebody to lean on,” Sims said.
“There is some less experience with Ray. But Ray is physical and he is very good at his technique. He won’t miss a beat.”
Against Chicago, Bears defensive tackle Adawale Ogunleye tried to take advantage of the more inexperienced Willis, twice in the first quarter pushing him after the play. Willis was then called for an offensive facemask penalty in the second quarter.
“I thought I played pretty well,” Willis said, “but there is always room for improvement.”
The Seahawks have a few extra days to get ready for the Chargers because their third game will be aired on Monday night, a week from today.
Of course, that means a quick turnaround for the fourth exhibition, which will be Aug. 29 at Qwest Field.
Seattle moves to its new practice facility in Renton today, and will have three more days of two-a-days before camp officially breaks.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who sat out last week with a sore back and did not participate in Saturday’s victory, is expected to be back and taking his usual numbers of repetitions with the first team. In the past, he has played his most minutes in the third exhibition and then plays little in the final one.
What Charlie Frye’s performance on Saturday means for the future of Seneca Wallace remains to be seen. Holmgren said he wanted to see how Frye would perform so that he could evaluate if he could use the athletic Wallace at another position.
That could be particularly enticing now, with wide receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram sidelined with injuries. With second-year Auburn product Courtney Taylor tentatively slated to replace Engram as the starting flanker, having Wallace as an option would be nice for Holmgren.
But Frye threw three interceptions against the Bears, including one that was returned for a touchdown. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 209 yards, but he had a 38.9 passer rating, less than half of what Hasselbeck’s was through 16 games last season.
Frye is not likely to see a great deal more playing time in the preseason, meaning Holmgren will have to make his evaluation based on what he saw against the Bears. When Holmgren was asked following the game about Frye’s performance, he said he wanted to reserve judgment until he watched the game film.