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Training Camp Preview Part 4 - Offensive Line

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As Douglas Adams so pointedly said while composing the true holy book of the internet, "Don't panic."

Okay, maybe a little. But not too much panic. It's undignified and turns off the opposite sex.

The big mystery of the upcoming Seahawks season is, of course, the prospects of our post-Hutchinson O-line. It is our very own Da Vinci Code, except if one were to publish the contents of Steve Hutchinson's contract, it would actually be a better book than Da Vinci Code.

But to be honest, I'm burnt out on fear. Hutchinson's departure happened back in March. That's given us four months to dance cheek-to-cheek with our panics and premonitions. We have all had enough time to fret over the chance that because the Michigan guard is gone, then the Seahawks offensive line will devolve from a unit with Swiss-watch efficiency into something more like Swiss cheese.

Seriously, that's not going to happen, and we all know it.

Don't we?

Okay, I'll stop. I'm just milking the panic and fear angles for cheap dramatics. Fox News Channel would be very proud. Let's see what we got:

Walter Jones. Now, see? Don't you feel better already?

As inappropriate it may be to underestimate what Steve Hutchinson meant to the team, it's also foolish to assume the left side of the offensive line is going to fall apart. I cannot see how Walter Jones is going to allow that to happen.

The question is who's going to line up next to Jones, and the prime candidates are experienced tackles: Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack -- every offensive line should be so lucky to have a player nicknamed in homage to a cut of meat -- and new Seahawk Tom Ashworth, who as a Patriot portrayed the "fraud monitoring metaphor" in those VISA commercials. (Or was it "zero liability"? I can't remember. I got MasterCard.)

The edge goes to the Chop. There have been concerns about Womack's overall health, although Tim Ruskell feels he easily could have been a starter on many other teams -- his starting role as tackle in '05 went to Sean Locklear because of Womack's triceps injury, and Locklear's excellence as a replacement. Now Womack may get another chance, even as Locklear is set to resume as a starter in '06.

Ashworth is respected for the cerebral approach he brings to the line. Holmgren seems intent that he will make the transition from tackle to guard; it's just a matter of which side of center he'll be on. I don't know where this leaves Chris Gray, who would appear to retain starting duties if Ashworth goes left, but might have to compete with Ashworth for right if that job goes to Pork Chop. Gray, at age 36, might be in for an autumnal season.

And speaking of sands through the hourglass, 36-year-old Robbie Tobeck again figures to be the starting center -- at the moment. It wouldn't be surprising in the least to see Chris Spencer, the Seahawks' #1 draft pick in '05, take over the position mid-season.

It would be, in my opinion, a bittersweet ascension: Although Tobeck's age must certainly be catching up with him, he's one of the entrenched leaders of the team. So much so that you've got to believe, at least on a mental level, he would support and facilitate Spencer's transition to starter.

But what do I know? Tobeck made the Pro Bowl last year. Who's to say he doesn't have it? I certainly won't push him to assistant coach-hood if he's still bringing it.

I have no concerns about Sean Locklear, who established himself well enough as a replacement for Womack -- so well, in fact, that he kept the job when Womack's health returned. All I'll say about his legal problems is that he took responsbility and addressed them in a way that would not affect the Seahawks' season. He wants to drop it, and so do I, frankly.

Other backup linemen we won't address in this article include William Henry, Rob Sims, Jeff Bolton, Lance Reynolds and Pat Ross.

Bottom line on the line: We're facing transitions, sure, and a big adjustment in mentality and maybe flexibility. But there's nothing here that can't be worked out in camp. At least one sports site, FoxSports.com, thinks the Seahawks still have the best offensive line in the NFC, even if it's been knocked down a peg by that other guy leaving. If it works, maybe I'll forget his name for real, and not just for comic effect.