Seattle Seahawks turn to Chester Pitts

The team has been waiting for Chester Pitts to return after an arduous rehab from knee surgery. His timing couldn’t be better, as left guard Ben Hamilton was placed on IR on Tuesday.

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The first thing you notice about Chester Pitts is his smile. It’s not only the kind that can light up a room; it also seems that Pitts has no control over the on-off switch.

During what coach Pete Carroll has called an arduous rehab from the microfracture surgery Pitts had on his right knee last September, the smile has been there. During his prolonged inactivity since the Seahawks signed the veteran offensive lineman in late July, Pitts has greeted each day and practice with that trademark smile – even though he was only a sideline spectator for all of training camp, the preseason and the first six games of the regular season.

Even after he was released for four days in October, Pitts returned wearing – you guessed it – that infectious smile.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Pitts finally got on the field in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders in Oakland, because left guard Ben Hamilton went out with a concussion. Pitts now is expected to remain at left guard because Hamilton was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday – along with defensive end Red Bryant, who damaged a knee ligament against the Raiders.

It’s been a long time coming for Pitts, who started 114 consecutive games for the Houston Texans before having surgery last September.

“He made it through the game fine,” coach Pete Carroll said on Monday. “I thought that Chester did a good job in his first game in a year, 14 months, whatever it is. He held up alright. He held up in pass protection, did OK in the running game.”

Until he slide over to left tackle after Tyler Polumbus went out with a slight knee sprain. Pitts allowed one of the eight sacks the Seahawks surrendered – to defensive end Matt Shaughnessy in the fourth quarter. That’s when Polumbus returned, and Pitts moved back to guard.

“When he moved to tackle, it got hard for him just because he hadn’t had much preparation there lately,” Carroll said. “But for a first game, if you look at this like his first preseason game – back after a long time, you know – he handled it alright and came out of it OK, as well.

“So we’ll look forward to him playing.”

The coaches also are looking forward to the possibility of getting rookie left tackle Russell Okung back, after the first-round draft choice missed the past seven quarters with a sprained left ankle he got against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I think it is possible he’ll practice on Wednesday,” Carroll said. “We’re looking forward to that and then we’ll have to see how he handles that, if he can. And we’ll know later in the week.”

That would be the optimum scenario, to have Okung back at left tackle – he also missed 5½ weeks earlier with a sprained right ankle – and Pitts at left guard. The combination of Polumbus and Hamilton had problems against the Raiders’ aggressive and physical defenders.

“We had hoped to do better than we did, of course,” Carroll said. “And we thought we’d be able to handle some stuff. But after the first quarter, Chester got in there and it seemed liked things evened out a little bit more and we had a chance to get going again.

“Early on, we were struggling. Our left side struggled in this game and they were able to take advantage of that.”

Now, Carroll would like to take advantage of having Okung and Pitts on the field together for the first time.

“This may be our first chance,” he said. “There’s been quite awhile that we’ve hoped that we could get Chester back in the lineup and he’s finally come around. It’s taken him a long time by our standards and his standards, but he’s back now.

“So we’ll improve, I think, in time. If those guys all play together then we’ll take it one week at a time and we need some time to allow them to kind of evolve together. So it’s not quite what we had hoped and what we wanted, but it is what it is and we have to make the best of it.”

Pitts will, and he’ll be smiling.