Three starters returned to the offensive line during Wednesday’s practice, a definite step in the right direction for a team that is 9-1 despite All-Pro center Max Unger, Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini missing a combined 18 games.The last time All-Pro center Max Unger, Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini played in a game together was in the Seahawks’ home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.That was Sept. 15. Okung injured a toe in a Week 2 matchup and hasn’t played since. Giacomini injured a knee in the following week and he hasn’t played since. Unger missed the Week 4 and 5 games with an arm injury, and last week’s game with a concussion. That’s a combined 18 games missed in a unit where continuity is crucial.But all three were back on the practice field Wednesday, when the 9-1 Seahawks began preparing for Sunday’s game against the 2-7 Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. Just being back, however, doesn’t mean they’re all the way back.“It’s exciting for our team to get some guys back and start working them into the mix,” line coach Tom Cable said after practice. “They’ve got some catching up to do, but they’ve been there a lot so it should happen quickly.”The key phrase here is “working them into the mix.” As good a players as Okung and Giacomini are they’ve played far less than the players who have been replacing them – veteran Paul McQuistan at left tackle for Okung, with James Carpenter replacing McQuistan at left guard; rookie Michael Bowie at right tackle for Giacomini; and, in Sunday’s 33-10 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta, rookie Alvin Bailey in spot duty at left tackle, with McQuistan sliding back to guard.“There’s a whole process that’s got to go on this week as they put in the different parts of the game plan and everything, and kind of adapting them back into the workload,” Cable said. “They moved around well. So just build from today, build tomorrow and again on Friday and Saturday and we’ll be ready to go.”But Cable isn’t kidding himself that Okung and Giacomini will be ready to go an entire game. They’ve simply missed too much time – too many games, too many practices, too many reps.“They haven’t been in the fight for, shoot, seven, eight weeks now,” he said. “So to expect them to just go the distance with no problems would probably be crazy on our part. So we’ll continue to mix and match a little bit just to get through the game the right way.”And Cable is in a situation where being forced to play his younger linemen the past two months gives him the confidence to rotate them until Okung and Giacomini are all the way back.“I’m delighted for us,” he said. “Our football team got a lot better through this tough time, if you will, in regards to depth. So it’s pretty neat.”Neat, as in the Seahawks rushed for 211 yards against the Falcons and the only sack of Russell Wilson came when the second-year quarterback held the ball too long. Neat, as in the Seahawks went 7-1 during the stretch when one, two or all three starting linemen were out. Neat, as in the Seahawks are averaging 153.4 rushing yards to rank second in the NFL.“We’re playing pretty good football now,” Cable said. “But we need to get better. And hopefully they’ll just add to that.”
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