Okung Finds a New NFL Learning Curve
Alex Gibbs coaches the rookie up (AP)
Alex Gibbs coaches the rookie up (AP)

Posted May 7, 2010


For offensive tackle Russell Okung, it's the little things that are proving tough to learn in getting his first taste of the NFL. Okung, the team's first pick in this year's draft at No. 6 overall, has immense shoes to fill with cornerstone offensive tackle Walter Jones recently retiring.

Along with taking over as the team's left tackle of the future, the Oklahoma State product also is responsible for learning a new playbook, and is expected to hit the ground running.

"I feel like I'm swimming a little bit," Okung said after his first practice with Seattle. "I'm a bit overwhelmed. But I'm just taking everything in and I'm learning. And I'm getting in the playbook and I'm being patient. And things are going to get rolling."

Asked what kind of advice he would give the rookie, Jones said to just be his own man.

"My advice is don't get caught up in the pressure of you got to replace Walter," Jones said. "You've got to go out and make your own name for yourself. I think if he goes out and he wants to be the best, that should be the approach he takes."

Okung has two of the best offensive line tutors helping him get up to speed in offensive line coach Alex Gibbs and left guard Ben Hamilton, whom the Seahawks recently signed to bolster the line and help mentor Okung. Both Gibbs and Hamilton are in charge of teaching the nuances of the playbook, along with the ins and outs of the team's new zone blocking scheme.

"He's a tremendous help," Okung said about his new teammate Hamilton, a 10-year veteran who also served as mentor in Denver for offensive tackle Ryan Clady when he first joined the Broncos. Clady, now in his third season, is a two-time All-Pro selection for Denver.

"He's a veteran guy," Okung added about Hamilton. "He knows the offense very well. So as long as we communicate and we stick together, we're going to get better."

Although not as physically imposing as Jones, Okung is solidly built, long and athletic. He's looked comfortable in run-blocking drills during the first two days of camp, crouching surprisingly low in his stance for a guy 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds and showing good explosion off the line blocking in Seattle's running game.

However, on pass plays Okung has at times gotten beat around the edge by faster defenders, something he understands he will improve on with more practice. But the one thing that has been noticeable is Okung's attitude. Known at Oklahoma State for playing with a little bit of nastiness, Okung has shown that same demeanor during the first two days of off-season workouts.

"It's very fast," said Okung, when asked about the speed of the game. "This is the National Football League. It's not the NCAA. It's not college. These guys out here, they're better. They're well-coached. They're disciplined, and I'm just trying to get myself up to their level of play."

One person who has helped Okung in that regard is Hamilton. He knows what Gibbs wants from playing for the longtime offensive line guru when he played for him in Denver.

"He's been a huge help stepping into that huddle with us," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said about Hamilton. "When you step into the huddle, you'll call a play, and I'll hear him kind of give a quiet reminder to the guys near him, or even at the line of scrimmage if the defense shifts or we go in motion. He's just got the finer coaching points down. He's got experience with these calls, with this offense and with this system."


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