For a distressing little while Thursday night, it looked like the worst thing that can happen to a team in the preseason had happened — the loss of a significant player to a serious injury.
But while the sight of starting left guard Damien Lewis being carted off early in the second quarter elicited the severest of fears, the Seahawks got about the best news possible after the game as X-rays turned out to be negative and coach Pete Carroll said Lewis had suffered only a lateral ankle sprain.
“Very, very fortunate,” Carroll said. “… He got rolled up on and all of that but all the X-rays and stuff were negative, so we’re very, very fortunate. He was upbeat about that, a little bit maybe surprised by the results. But we are thrilled by it.”
Carroll said he couldn’t say if Lewis could be back for the regular-season opener against Denver on Sept. 12 or how long he might be out.
But an ankle sprain is a lot better than how it appeared.
Lewis was hurt with 14:05 remaining in the second quarter on a two-yard run by DeeJay Dallas from the Bears 42 to the 40. Bears linebacker Caleb Johnson was also hurt on the play.
The injury immediately appeared bad as center Austin Blythe almost instantly called for the trainers. Teammates such as starters Jamal Adams and Rashaad Penny — each in uniform but not playing — came off the sidelines to take a knee around Lewis with trainers quickly placing an air cast on his right leg and carting him off the field.
Lewis, a third-round pick in 2019 out of LSU, has been Seattle’s starting left guard throughout camp, and has started 29 games his first two years in the NFL.
The injury came on what was Seattle’s third possession of the game, with much of their first-team offensive line in to play with Geno Smith.
After the injury, the Seahawks moved Phil Haynes from the right side to the left and reinserted Gabe Jackson into the lineup at right guard.
For as long as Lewis might have to be out that would likely be the way Seattle would go, with Haynes and Jackson as the starters.
Haynes, a fourth-year player out of Wake Forest, has been competing with Jackson for the right guard spot, and had entered the lineup at right guard on the series on which Lewis was hurt.
Haynes, who played well in two starts at the end of last season, was re-signed to a one-year deal worth $2.54 million in March.
“Phil can start,” Carroll said earlier this month. “He plays like a starter. He looks like a starter out there and he’s pushing Gabe, he really is. He’s our guy that’s swinging right and left side right now, and if he had to start for either guy, I would feel absolutely comfortable. He’s made great strides, he’s really physical, he moves well enough, he’s a smart kid, he really cares, and you can count on him. I feel like we’ve got three starting guards right now that really, we could play and be fine with.”
Jackson, 31, was acquired from the Raiders in a trade in March 2021 and started 16 games at right guard, with Lewis then moving to the left. Jackson had offseason knee surgery and has been limited in camp, which has given ample snaps to Haynes.
Another possible option for the Seahawks is to use Jake Curhan at right guard or as a backup on each side.
Geno Smith says he’s OK following banged knee
Smith banged his right knee when he hit the ground hard following a scramble in the first quarter.
And when he returned to the field in the second half with ice on his knee, it seemed like a potentially ominous development for a Seattle team with a most-uncertain quarterback situation.
But the ice was off by the time the game ended, and Smith said afterward that he was fine and would just need a little ice and treatment.
“Took a little bump,” said Smith. “Obviously didn’t want that to happen. But I’ll be good.”
Carroll said Smith felt well enough that the Seahawks debated letting him play some in the second half to get some more snaps but decided it wasn’t the right move.
Seattle entered the game with just two quarterbacks with Drew Lock testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. That had former UW and Lake Stevens standout Jacob Eason playing the entire second half.
Carroll said if the team had needed, receiver Penny Hart, who played quarterback in high school, would have taken over the signal-calling duties.
Smith didn’t blame the knee issue for the offense’s struggles, saying the Seahawks just again got off to a slow start, as they had Saturday in Pittsburgh and has “some self-inflicted wounds, some things we can control.”
Smith also didn’t blame what was a weird week.
He took all of his snaps with the second-team offense on Tuesday with the Seahawks prepping Lock to be the starter and then working with the starters in a lighter practice on Wednesday.
“It was the same (as all the other weeks),” Smith said. “We’d already been mixing reps. Obviously, we wish Drew a speedy recovery, and when that happened, the dynamic changed a bit. But the week stayed the same for me.”
Joel Dublanko gets start at linebacker
Maybe the most surprising starter of the night was Joel Dublanko at one inside linebacker spot alongside Cody Barton in the middle. Barton played the middle with Jordyn Brooks again getting the night off. Brooks, who has been nursing a hamstring injury, was in uniform and went through warmups before the game but did not play.
Dublanko, a native of Aberdeen who played at Cincinnati, was signed 13 days ago after going through a tryout with the Seahawks in their search to fill depth at linebacker.
He has progressed rapidly up the depth chart, having made a team-high eight tackles in the preseason opener.
“He has made a good impression,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday before jokingly noting that Dublanko is from Aberdeen and said “for the town of Aberdeen, you ought to show up. Be early. He’s going to be out there.”
That was indeed foreshadowing that Dublanko might start with the likes of Lakiem Williams and Iggy Iyiegbuniwe having battled injuries of late and former Raiders’ third-round pick Tanner Muse of Clemson appearing stalled on the depth chart.
Dublanko was signed by the Saints in May following their rookie minicamp but lasted just four days, waived on May 16. He returned to the Seattle area to train and said he had no idea what his football future held until the Seahawks called to offer the tryout. He signed the next day and the following day took part in the team’s mock game at Lumen Field.
“It feels unreal,” Dublanko said. “I just go out there and try to do my best every day.”
Dublanko played throughout the first half and had four tackles.
— With Sidney Jones IV and Artie Burns each out, the Seahawks started Michael Jackson at left cornerback and rookie Tariq Woolen at right cornerback.
— With Penny not playing and rookie Ken Walker III out with a hernia injury, Travis Homer got the start at running back.
— Former O’Dea High star Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in June by the Orlando Magic, raised the 12th Man flag.
— Former WSU standout running back Rueben Mayes, who played the 1992 and 1993 seasons with Seattle, was honored as the Seahawks legend for the game.