Mansfield Wrotto steps in at left tackle

With injuries sidelining Russell Okung, Ray Willis and Chester Pitts, the Seahawks will turn to Mansfield Wrotto at the pivotal position on their offensive line in Saturday night’s game against the Vikings.

Mansfield Wrotto has been hoping for more playing – any playing time. He’s about to get it.

With first-round draft choice Russell Okung out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain, Wrotto was at the pivotal left tackle spot with the No. 1 line in practice Tuesday and will start the Seahawks’ preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome on Saturday night.

That’s Mansfield Wrotto the team’s fourth-round draft choice in 2007 who has played in 13 games and started five – at guard – the past three seasons.

Ideal, with a Vikings defense that generated 48 sacks last season up next? Not exactly. But injuries have stripped the Seahawks of their other options. Ray Willis is sidelined after having arthroscopic surgery to repair damaged knee cartilage. Chester Pitts, who began training camp on the physically-unable-to-performance list while completing his rehab from microfracture surgery on his right knee, could practice for the first time later this week. But he is not ready to play.

“Chester will be working at that spot as soon as he’s able to take the snaps,” coach Pete Carroll said after practice. “We’re not sure how long that’s going to take right now.”

So Wrotto is it. And it’s not like he’s never played the position before, because Wrotto had to step in after Okung was injured on the Seahawks’ first series in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field.

“He finished the whole game and did an admirable job,” Carroll said. “So we’re going to continue to do that.”

The Seahawks could have an entirely new left side of the line Saturday night, because Mike Gibson might get the start at left guard for Ben Hamilton.

The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Wrotto has used an unorthodox path to reach this fast-lane assignment in his career. An all-state player at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., he went to Georgia Tech as a defensive tackle and didn’t move to the offensive line until his senior season in 2006 – when he played right tackle.

With the Seahawks, he was inactive for 15 of the 16 games his rookie season. He played in seven games in 2008, starting the final four at right guard. Last season, he also played in seven games and made one start – at left guard in Week 5 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a game the Seahawks won 44-0.

What does the Liberian-born Wrotto think about his latest challenge? Good question, and one that will remain unanswered because new line coach Alex Gibbs has a rule that his linemen will not grant interviews.

But that’s OK, because Wrotto has his actions to speak for him, as well as his head coach.

“He’s got good feet,” Carroll said when asked what Wrotto brings to the left tackle position. “He’s got some versatility to play some other spots. He stood up to the pass rush very well in this game (against the Titans) and did a nice job.

“He did an admirable job. We made note of it to the team when we came back on Monday. That was a situation where a guy is called on to step up and he came through pretty nicely for us. His movement is good. His understanding of the game is good. He’s pretty strict with his assignments. He has a good feel for how to work with the other guys.”

This week, Wrotto likely will be working against Jared Allen, the Vikings’ pass-rush specialist who led the NFC with 14½ sacks last season.

Despite that possible matchup, Carroll is not backing down on his plan to get quarterback Matt Hasselbeck his most extensive action of the preseason on Saturday night.

“It does change our concerns about making sure he gets the ball out of his hands,” Carroll said. “But he needs to play. So he’s going to play in the game and we’ll see what happens and how we hold up against those guys.

“And Jared Allen is a pretty good player, and those guys bring it pretty nice. So we’re going to have to do a good job of protecting and we’ll see how it goes as the game goes on.”