Six weeks after Russell Okung limped off Qwest Field with a high ankle sprain, the Seahawks rookie offensive tackle appears ready to make his NFL debut.
After Okung’s first week of practice without restrictions, Pete Carroll was impressed with the conditioning and performance of the No. 6 overall draft pick. But the Seahawks coach stopped short of saying he’ll start Sunday when Seattle (2-1) visits St. Louis (1-2) at the Edward Jones Dome.
“Russell’s ready to play,” Carroll said. “He did a very good job this week. We’ll figure it out, see how this day affects him and we’ll get all the way to game time to get a decision on that. He did a terrific job this week.”
Okung’s return coincides with the departure of linebacker Leroy Hill, who was placed on the injured-reserve list. It’s uncertain if Hill, a free agent in 2011, will play again with the Seahawks. Carroll said Hill underwent surgery to repair a calf/Achilles injury.
Hill appeared in one game this season. He had been one of Seattle’s rising stars and signed a six-year contract before the 2009 season. After an offseason of legal trouble, the Seahawks and Hill reworked his contract and settled on a one-year, $2.125 million deal in base salary. He was scheduled to make $6 million this season.
It’s the third straight year Hill has dealt with injuries. In 2008, he missed the final four games due to a neck/shoulder injury and last season he missed five games because of a groin strain.
Seattle will wait until Sunday before making a decision on Okung. The decision to start him may depend on if the Seahawks will have right tackle Sean Locklear, who has not practiced this week because of a knee injury.
Offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus, who has started every game on the left side, has replaced Locklear in workouts and could get the call.
“Tyler (Polumbus) had a very good week there, very solid preparation for us, and we’ll be fine if he’s going,” Carroll said. “That’s a great bonus for us that he (Polumbus) can play on both sides and he’s really showing his value right off the mark here, early in the season.”
The Seahawks have been waiting a long time to get a good look at Okung, the player tabbed to be the cornerstone of the offensive line for the next decade.
“He looked rusty,” offensive-line coach Art Vallero said after Wednesday’s workout. “But it was good to see him back out there. He’s still got to get the speed of the game and all of those other types of things being out as long as he was.”