Wednesday in Hawkville

A recap of the activities on Day 3 of NFC West Championship week:

FOCUS ON

Russell Okung. The season of pain continues for the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice.

Despite tweaking an already sprained ankle in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa, Okung was at left tackle today when the team began practicing for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the St. Louis Rams that will determine which team wins the NFC West title and advances to the playoffs.

But then playing – and practicing – in pain his nothing new for Okung. Not this season.

He missed the first three regular-season games after getting a high sprain of his right ankle in the preseason opener. His first NFL start came in the Week 4 loss to the Rams in St. Louis, and he lasted only the first half before soreness in the ankle forced him to the sideline. He then sprained his left ankle on the opening series of the Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field and missed the next three games.

“It’s been such a challenged year for him – he’s never felt 100 percent at any time,” coach Pete Carroll said. “And he doesn’t have just one ankle he’s dealing with. He has both ankles he’s dealt with.”

 

Imagine what Okung can become if he has at least one good leg to drive-block and pass protect on.

“I think that we have seen just a percentage of what he will become,” Carroll said. “I think he’s just getting rolling. Even to this day, he’s just so raw and so young.

“Our expectations are really high for him – that he’s going to be a fantastic player.”

Okung already is pretty darn good. In fact, he has been the best of the nine linemen who have started for the Seahawks this season. But it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s been a big challenge for him,” Carroll said. “He’s never been out of the training room all year because of what he’s gone through. Hopefully next time around, he will grow enormously from the experience and he’ll be a different guy physically.

“I think he’s busting his tail to get it done at this point, but there’s a lot left out there right now. So he’ll get way better.”  

ON THE FIELD

The players worked for 90 minutes in the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on “Competition Wednesday.”

Backup QB Charlie Whitehurst ran the offense because starter Matt Hasselbeck is sidelined with a strained hip.

For a peek at practice, checkout Rod Mar’s daily photo gallery.

PLAYOFF PATTER

A lot has been said – and is being said – about a .500 team (the Rams) or a sub-.500 team (the Seahawks) winning the division and advancing to the playoffs.

Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, two teams have won their division with 8-8 records. The 2008 Chargers beat the Colts in their playoff opener before losing to the Steelers in the second round. The 1985 Browns lost their postseason opener to the Dolphins.

During the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Browns and Lions advanced to the playoffs with 4-5 records. Each lost in the first round – the Browns to the Raiders and the Lions to the Redskins.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by the team:

Did not practice

QB Matt Hasselbeck (hip)

K Olindo Mare (back)

WR Brandon Stokley (head)

MLB Lofa Tatupu (knee)

With Tatupu being given the day off to rest a sore knee, Matt McCoy worked at middle linebacker with the No. 1 defense. Stokley has yet to be cleared to practice after getting a concussion in the game against the Bucs, but Carroll is hopefully the productive slot receiver will return to practice by Friday – if not Thursday. P Jon Ryan handled the field goal-kicking chores in practice because Mare has a sore back, with WR Ruvell Martin replacing Ryan as the holder.

For the Rams:

Did not practice

TE Mike Hoomanawanui (ankle)

Limited in practice

CB Jerome Murphy (finger)

STAT DU JOUR

Rams QB Sam Bradford already has broken Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record for most completions. He’s also third in passing yards (3,357) behind the Colts’ Manning (3,739 in 1998) and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (3,440 in 2008) with one game to play.

YOU DON’T SAY

“It means nothing to me. Try to imagine how skewed my mind would be if I was thinking about those kinds of issues right now. That’s not what’s going on. We’re going out to do everything we can to play a great football game this weekend. I understand the question though, people want to know.” – Carroll, when asked if he had thought about the impact on the Seahawks’ draft position if they won Sunday’s game compared to losing it


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