Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said he wasn't sure if the sprain was of the "high ankle" variety, which often takes considerably longer than "low ankle" sprains to heal. High ankle sprains are known to sideline players for 4-6 weeks or more.
Seattle hosts NFC West division favorite San Francisco in three weeks to begin the regular season.
I attended this game and looked forward to comparing the play of Okung and Green Bay Packers' first round pick Bryan Bulaga (who was impressive ).
In watching Okung's three plays live, as well as watching and re-watching the recording of the game I took at home, I still am not sure how or even when, precisely, Okung was injured.
Neither were Carroll nor quarterback Matt Hasselbeck when interviewed following the game.
Okung started at left tackle and played each of the three offensive downs of Seattle's first drive. The rookie did not appear to be injured on either of the first two plays -- two runs by Justin Forsett.
Okung appeared to ease out of his stance cleanly into pass protection on third down. He was balanced and under control. The pocket began to break down and Hasselbeck made his throw -- which Deion Branch allowed to slip through his hands -- and the Seahawks were forced to punt. Though I focused on Okung throughout much of the play, I followed Hasselbeck's pass and didn't notice Okung being hurt.
Later, after it was announced that Okung had suffered an ankle injury and was "doubtful" to return, I asked some of the media and pro scouts around me if they had noticed Okung limp off the field or suffer the injury. None had.
In fact, the first notion most (all?) of us in the pressbox had that Okung was hurt was when former offensive guard Mansfield Wrotto took over as Seattle's left tackle on the next drive. Seattle Post Intelligencer's Greg Johns reports that Okung was "helped to the locker room early in the first quarter." Okung did not return to the field, nor was he made available to the media following the game.
Upon getting home this evening, I reviewed the film to see if there was a clearer view of the injury.
As I suspected, the television coverage focused on Hasselbeck's pass to Branch on third down. Okung appears to be comfortable in pass protection when the camera follows the ball.
Often, when offensive linemen receive ankle injuries while in pass protection, they are rolled up from behind. The pocket was shifting as the play ended and it is possible that this is precisely what occurred with Okung. The television coverage I have, however, does not show Okung being knocked down.
Regardless of how it happened, the injury to Okung could wreak havoc with the quiet optimism that had been brewing in Carroll's first training camp in Seattle.
The Seahawks struggled mightily with injuries along the offensive line last year; they started five different left tackles last season. Improved consistency and durability along the offensive line was considered as critical to the Seahawks improving from their 5-11 record last year as any other factor.
The usually energetic Carroll appeared somber in the post-game press conference, admitting that Okung's ankle sprain was "pretty significant."
He was short on specifics other than to say that Okung's x-rays were negative and that the No. 6 overall pick would undergo an MRI Sunday.
Carroll did, however, further acknowledge the severity of the situation.
"We obviously made it [left tackle] as big a priority as we could make it in getting him," Carroll said. "So, we'll have to see how it goes."
"That's a big loss if he can't come back. We put a lot of time and effort into getting this guy right and he's done everything we've asked of him. We'll just have to see how long it's going to take."
Mansfield Wrotto played the rest of the game at left tackle for the Seahawks.
Okung's injury is the second the team has faced in the past week along the offensive line. Ray Willis, who started all 16 games last year at right tackle for the club, was already out with plans to undergo knee surgery. His injury, like Okung's, is expected to keep Willis out until at least the start of the regular season -- and perhaps much longer.