Just as he did twice last season, Tyler Polumbus is stepping in at left tackle for the Seahawks while Russell Okung is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Tyler Polumbus has been here before.
That’s why there was no panic alone the Seahawks’ sideline or in the huddle on Thursday night when left tackle Russell Okung went out with a sprained left ankle on the fourth play of the Seahawks’ preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego. That’s because Polumbus stepped in for Okung last season – not once, but twice – when the first-round draft choice got high sprains of both ankles.
Okung’s latest injury isn’t as serious as the previous two, and coach Pete Carroll is talking about getting him back for the regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco on Sept. 11. But until then, it’s back to Polumbus.
“We’ve been down this road a little bit last year,” Polumbus said Sunday between on-field sessions at the team’s training camp. “Unfortunately, it’s a little bit of déjà vu for Russ.
“So that’s my role right now, and I’ve just got to be ready to go when my number gets called.”
While that comes across as a backup’s cliché, it’s not only true; it’s easier said than done.
“That’s just my job – to be ready,” Polumbus said. “Whenever something happens I’ve got to be ready to go in at all times.”
Polumbus’ path to Seattle last year took a detour through Detroit. When the Denver Broncos waived Polumbus in August, the Seahawks put in a claim – but so did the Lions, whose 2-14 record in 2009 trumped the Seahawks’ 5-11 mark.
Momentarily disappointed, but ultimately undaunted, the Seahawks acquired Polumbus on Aug. 31 in a trade with the Lions for a seventh-round draft choice. The Lions were set to release him, but the Seahawks didn’t want to chance losing him again.
“I wanted to end up here all along,” Polumbus said. “As soon as Seattle claimed me, I really wanted to come here. But I had to go over to Detroit for a few days. They made a move to get me over here and I was really happy about that.”
All the Seahawks’ targeting practice – led by the efforts of director of pro personnel Tag Ribary – paid off almost immediately.
With Okung still out because of the high sprain of his right ankle he got in the second preseason game, Polumbus stepped in and started the first three regular-season games – including the opener against the 49ers at CenturyLink Field.
“In that first game, Tyler stepped in and played against Greg Manusky’s group,” Schneider said of the 49ers’ former defensive coordinator. “Those guys were playing 140 mph and Tyler played well.”
After missing 43 days, Okung returned for the Week 4 game against the Rams in St. Louis. So Polumbus moved to right tackle and started for an ailing Sean Locklear, only to move back to the left side late in the second quarter when Okung’s ankle started giving him problems. Polumbus started two more games at left tackle after Okung went down in the Week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals with a high sprained of his left ankle, an injury that would sideline him for 28 days.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Polumbus then slide inside to start at left guard – a position he had not played since high school – in the regular-season finale and both playoff games.
Did someone say versatile? Yes, it was Schneider.
“We wanted to acquire Tyler because of his versatility – left tackle, right tackle, he’s played some guard,” he said. “Tyler already has played a lot for us, and here he is again.”
What you initially see with Polumbus isn’t exactly what you always get. He’s got size, obviously, but also is athletic enough to play in the blocking system that Alex Gibbs was installing a year ago – before the veteran line coach abruptly retired the weekend before the season opener.
Tom Cable, the ex-Raiders coach who was hired in January to jumpstart a running game that ranked 31st in the league last season, likes his linemen bigger and nastier.
Nasty? Polumbus? Out of uniform, he’s soft spoken, articulate and helps developmentally disabled children through his foundation – Tyler’s Kids Outreach. On the field, however, he doesn’t back down from any opponent or situation.
“Tyler is an aggressive player,” left guard Robert Gallery said. “When he gets in there he does a nice job and he’s fun to play next to.”
Back to the mild-mannered Polumbus for a second. During the offseason that was extended by the 136-day lockout, he hosted a camp for kids in Colorado – where he was an all-state blocker at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, All-Big 12 selection at the Colorado and played his first two NFL seasons with the Broncos.
“We had a great time,” Polumbus said. “Those kids put a bigger smile on our face than we do on theirs, seriously.”