The last time Tyler Polumbus played guard was at Cherry Creek High School in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village.
Until Wednesday, that is.
The 6-foot-8 Polumbus worked at left guard in practice as the Seahawks began preparing for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qwest Field because Chester Pitts is sidelined after spraining an ankle in last week’s loss to the Saints in New Orleans.
“If Tyler can pull this off and play left guard for us if we need him, then he plays left tackle, right tackle and left guard – and that’s a bonus for us,” coach Pete Carroll said.
It’s also the latest example of how injuries continue to disrupt the quest for continuity on the line, and how valuable it is to have linemen who can play multiple positions. Polumbus, who didn’t join the team until Aug. 31 in a trade with the Detroit Lions, already has started five games at left tackle and one at right tackle because of injuries to Russell Okung and Sean Locklear.
And Polumbus hasn’t escaped the injury bug, either. He missed one game because of a sprained knee.
That has been the never ending story of the Seahawks’ line this season, when they have started seven different combinations in 10 games – which will grow to eight in 11 games if either Polumbus or Mike Gibson starts for Pitts against the Chiefs.
“We’ve got two starters on the IR, and the guys that are on our active roster now are banged up,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “It’s been a challenge, but I think they’re doing a good job.”
The out-for-the-season starters are guards Max Unger and Ben Hamilton. They have been replaced by Stacy Andrews, who was obtained in a Sept. 5 trade with the Philadelphia Eagles; and Gibson and Pitts.
The Seahawks have used three starters each at left tackle and left guard, and two each at right guard and right tackle.
But in the past two games, Hasselbeck has been sacked only once despite putting the ball up 78 times.
Locklear says the key to the improved pass protection was the porous performance in Week 8 against the Raiders in Oakland, when Hasselbeck got a concussion while being sacked a career-high eight times.
“Guys really took that to heart. That was an eye-opener,” he said. “That was the worst game. Before that, we were fairly decent. But when a game like that happens, it makes you focus in a lot more because we want Hasselbeck in there. He’s our starter. He’s our leader.
“And for him to stay in there, we’ve got to keep him standing.”
As for his view of this turnaround, Hasselbeck offered, “I’m very appreciative.”
Just as the coaches appreciate the versatility in the group of linemen they have assembled.
“Without it, I don’t think we would have survived,” Carroll said.
Gibson is a “big piece of the puzzle,” as Carroll put it, because he has started at left guard and filled all five spots on the line at various times in practice.
“Mike is really the guy who’s leading to take that spot, if he’s healthy and can make it, so it will be interesting to see what happens,” Carroll said of the left guard spot.
That’s because Gibson is a guard who can play tackle, while Polumbus is a tackle who is getting a look at guard.
“We have a lot of guys who can play a lot of positions,” said Gibson, who missed the past two games with a sprained ankle. “The versatility is a huge advantage for us.”
But the difference between playing tackle and guard also falls into the huge category. Gibson gives credit to line coach Art Valero for getting all these new players prepared to play wherever needed.
“Artie does a good job of teaching us the offense and we do a great job of grasping it,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of fun, when you get to know the challenge.”
Which gets back to the versatility factor.
“It’s all part of it,” said Locklear, whose 82 career starts for the Seahawks are just six fewer than the other eight lineman on the 53-man roster combined – and 64 of those 88 belong to center Chris Spencer.
“When guys go down, they don’t require you to know just one position. If you want to be around and be able to play, you’ve got to be able to play multiple positions. And we’ve got guys on our team that are willing to do that, and able to do that.”
Like Tyler Polumbus.