Womack Out, Spencer In. Here We Go Again?

On the surface, Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack is beginning to resemble Pete Best. The 6'4", 330-pound lineman doesn't exactly look like the former Beatles drummer, who was replaced by Ringo Starr in 1962, but Womack is in danger of being supplanted by another player for the second straight season.

In the third preseason game of 2005, while playing right tackle, the 2001 fourth-round pick tore his left triceps against the Kansas City Chiefs, and second-year tackle Sean Locklear filled in quite admirably. Locklear helped the Seahawks make it all the way to Super Bowl XL, and Womack filled in where he could upon his return.

Womack had worked his way up from the role of erstwhile Walter Jones Training Camp Holdout Replacement through talent and hard work, but one has to wonder if the young man isn’t somewhat snakebit in the health category.

2006 is supposed to be his year - when the Minnesota Vikings pulled out all the stops to acquire All-Pro left guard Steve Hutchinson, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren penciled Womack’s name into the left guard spot between Walter Jones and Robbie Tobeck. The team knew that if he could stay healthy, Womack’s road-grader abilities would fit like a glove.

After today, “if he can stay healthy” seems to be the most pressing qualifier. During a full-contact practice at the team’s training camp in Cheney, WA, Womack was pulling behind a play that was flowing away from him, when he suddenly pulled up, holding the back of his right leg.

Womack immediately hobbled to the sidelines, and the Seahawks’ trainers confirmed the frustrating verdict – a hamstring strain, and Womack out for at least a week. Chris Spencer, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2005, will most likely slip in and play left guard against the Dallas Cowboys in the Seahawks’ preseason opener this Saturday.

Holmgren said that he wasn’t completely sure what would happen to the rotation. “We have to talk about it tonight; I have to see how that’s going to work,” he said. “I don’t know. I could tell you something, but we’re really going to talk about it this evening.”

Rob Sims (also) factors in there,” Holmgren added, taking about Seattle’s 2006 fourth-round draft pick, a well-regarded guard from Ohio State. “If ‘Chop’ can’t go, Rob Sims will start the game at left guard, or Spencer. Those are our choices. Chris has to get work at center.

”That’s why the line coaches are brilliant, I have to see how he’s (Bill Laveroni) going to juggle that thing.”

Holmgren also talked about Spencer’s versatility – the Ole Miss grad played guard as well in college, but his primary role with the Seahawks will be in the middle, in Holmgren’s mind. “(Spencer) is a center. He’s a natural center who has played guard. He’s athletic enough, we feel, to play guard if he has to. In the preseason games, my hope was to have (Robbie) Tobeck play a quarter and Chris Spencer the rest of the game.

“It doesn’t appear as though I’m going to be able to do that (now).”

Has Womack entered the dreaded “injury-prone” realm? “You’re concerned because that’s the one thing that, when he has had the opportunity to play, has kept him from playing,” the coach said.

And while Womack has appeared less than svelte at times in the past, Holmgren said that this most recent injury most likely has nothing to do with conditioning. “He’s had some bad luck with that. He is in good shape, his weight is down now, and I feel bad for him. He’s worked hard to be the guy and I want him to be successful.

“On a personal level, I like the guy a lot. I would like to have him do what he can do. I believe he can, he just has to get a little luck going his way. It’s just an injury. When he comes back we will plug him back in there. He’s our left guard, if he’s not hurt. It’s not very complicated.”

If Womack can’t recover in time for the season, and replace the best guard in the NFL in Hutchinson, positional complexity will be Holmgren’s cross to bear again. He can only hope that there is another Sean Locklear – or Ringo Starr – waiting in the wings.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.


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