The Seahawks will be without two key members of their offensive line when they play the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night at University of Phoenix Stadium in what will basically serve as the NFC West championship game. Speaking Friday on his radio show on 97.3 FM, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed that C Max Unger (knee) and LT Russell Okung (chest) won’t play against Arizona.
LG J.R. Sweezy will likely start, though, after missing Wednesday and Thursday’s practices because of a sprained ankle he sustained last week against the 49ers. He was a full participant Friday and deemed probable for this weekend in this afternoon’s practice report.
That is welcome news for Seattle. In its last matchup against Arizona’s blitz-heavy defense, the Seahawks’ patchwork offensive line gave up seven sacks in a 19-3 win at CenturyLink Field.
Carroll intimated Friday that C Lemuel Jeanpierre or Patrick Lewis will start in place of Unger, who hasn’t played since being carted off Arrowhead Stadium’s field in a Nov. 16 loss to the Chiefs. It was initially reported that Unger sustained a twisted knee and ankle injury. But Carroll said after Friday’s practice that the two-time Pro-Bowler out of the University of Oregon is now dealing with a high ankle sprain and no longer is having problems with his knee. He was listed on the practice report as “doubtful” with DE Demarcus Dobbs.
Meanwhile, Alvin Bailey will start in place of Okung after Okung sustained a chest injury on the final play of the first half last week against San Francisco. In the aftermath, FOX television cameras caught Okung coughing up blood on the sideline and shoving a team employee in frustration. He was taken to the hospital for evaluation and diagnosed with a bruised lung. Okung has yet to practice since getting hurt.
TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and WR Chris Matthews (hamstring) were both held out of Friday’s practice and are questionable to play Sunday, while WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was a full participant after being held out Thursday to rest. Richardson, TE Cooper Helfet (ankle), RB Marshawn Lynch (back) are probable for Sunday.
Helfet hasn’t played since getting injured in the Nov. 23 win over Arizona.
Avril talks about contract
Seahawks DE Cliff Avril signed a four-year contract extension Friday worth $28.5 million, with $16 million guaranteed.
According to Avril, both sides had been trying to work a deal since last season ended.
“We tried to do something after the season last year and they had different things they had to do to try and get things going,” Avril said. “I told my agent not to call me throughout the season unless it was something really worth paying attention to.”
“He called me and voila,” he added, smiling.
Avril, 28, has 4.5 sacks in 2014, though the advanced analytics site, Pro Football Focus, ranks him as the seventh best defensive end pass rusher in the league. Avril and fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett joined the Seahawks in 2013 at a bargain rate before playing their way to mega-deals after Avril spent the first five years of his career with the Detroit Lions.
“I’ve learned how to win (in Seattle),” Avril quipped Friday. “Oh, sorry, Detroit.”
With Avril’s signing, the Seahawks have almost the entire core of their elite defense locked in to long-term contracts, with MLB Bobby Wagner set to receive a huge deal this offseason. FS Earl Thomas, SS Kam Chancellor, CB Richard Sherman and LB K.J. Wright are among that group. Wright signed a four-year contract extension Thursday worth $27 million.
“We found the core guys that we really like and we’re trying to keep them here and keep them together,” Carroll said Friday. “With the opportunity at the end of the year to do this financially, we jumped at the chance.”
Avril was happy he won’t have to test free-agency after the season.
“It’s definitely a relief . . . I didn’t like that whole process two years ago and I like it out here. I love what coach Carroll is doing with the guys. I love the scheme,” he said. “The guys in the locker room make it so fun to play here. Just being in Seattle and the environment that we have . . . I want to keep the party going.”