Max Unger. The big toe on the left foot of the team’s starting right guard has the Seahawks in a jam as they start thinking about – and preparing for – this week’s game against the Broncos in Denver.
Unger injured the digit early in Sunday’s season opener against the 49ers at Qwest Field, but last year’s second-round draft choice continued to play. Now, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to play this Sunday.
“It looks like Max Unger is going to miss (this game),” coach Pete Carroll said after his first day-after Q&A session with the media. “He hurt his toe early in the game and he just toughed it out. We don’t have conclusive stuff, but it’s going be really, really difficult for him to make it back this game.”
If Unger can’t play, Ben Hamilton could step in and start against his former team. Hamilton played the second half against the 49ers at left guard after Mike Gibson went out with a strained back. But Gibson should be able to play this week, Carroll said.
“We have to do some switching and changing to move some stuff around,” Carroll said. “We’ll have to figure that out in the next day or so.”
It’s also unlikely that first-round draft choice Russell Okung will be ready to return from the sprained ankle that has sidelined him the past three weeks. So Tyler Polumbus, who played the past two seasons with the Broncos, is expected to start at left tackle again.
The one-game suspension of Leroy Hill ended today, so the veteran linebacker will rejoin the team.
“We’ll see how this fits together,” Carroll said. “We’re pleased to have him back. We’re going to get him ready to play. He’s not coming back sit, he’s coming back to play. We’ll figure out how that works. He won’t start in the game. That won’t happen, but we certainly would like to get him to play some and contribute and be part of it.”
David Hawthorne has been starting at the weak-side spot where Hill was the starter the past 4½ seasons.
Kelly Jennings. The play of the former first-round draft choice at right cornerback against the 49ers justified the decision to trade former starter Josh Wilson to the Baltimore Ravens.
“Kelly had a really solid game,” Carroll said. “He made a couple of great tackles in the open field; played the ball well a couple times; was in the right place throughout the game; played aggressive coverage throughout, too.
“He really earned that spot and then he came out and played like it.”
No play Jennings made was bigger than his tackle of running back Frank Gore for a 1-yard gain after a third-and-goal reception on the 49ers’ first possession. It forced the 49ers to settle for a field goal.
Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said last week that the 217-pound Gore was extremely difficult to tackle one-on-one. But there was the lightest player on the Seahawks’ defense doing just that.
“He’s doing his thing and he’s working hard,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said. “That was a big play. They’re down there in the red zone. If Kelly doesn’t make that tackle, he may get pretty close to the goal line and maybe even score. So it’s a big play for us.”
From the 180-pound Jennings.
Defensive line. Junior Siavii and Raheem Brock didn’t join the Seahawks until last week, but each had an impact on Sunday’s game. Siavii had two solo tackles, including one for a loss, and also hit 49ers quarterback Alex Smith once. Brock also had two tackles and applied pressure.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that (line coach) Dan Quinn can get those guys to come in and play,” Carroll said. “Junior played really well and Raheem Brock played in third-down situations and he had a number of different styles and things that he had to do.
“That was the savvy of Raheem to know and understand the game enough that he could put together a game plan in a week’s time. And for Junior to jump in there and helps us, they we able to contribute in a large way for being here such a short time. … They helped us in critical situations. They contributed, not just played.”
The players are off Tuesday, while the coaches work on the game plan for Sunday’s game against the Broncos.
But the players and coaches already had shifted their attention to the game in Denver by this afternoon. The Broncos feature what Carroll called “a lot of weapons” on offense and also a 3-4 defense.
“It will be very difficult for us,” Carroll said. “The thing that we want to learn how to do is how to carry our game on the road. That’s important for us.”
This is just the first of eight road games, as the Seahawks also will travel to St. Louis, Chicago, Oakland, Arizona, New Orleans, San Francisco and Tampa. Of the teams that play in those cities, the Bears, Cardinals, Saints and Buccaneers won their openers.
“We need a game like this at this time,” Carroll said. “We need to figure this part out. And it might as well be as tough as it gets, like it is in Denver.”
YOU DON’T SAY
“I think any time you get in the end zone it’s real exciting. And I think you can probably add in just a little bit of frustration because of how we started. We started really slow and poorly. … So it just felt good to take the lead and get in the end zone. ” – quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, on his emotional eruption against the 49ers after scoring a rushing touchdown for the first time since 2005