Center Spencer has muscle tear

Updated: August 24, 2009, 10:18 PM ET
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com

The Seattle Seahawks will be without starting center Chris Spencer heading into the regular season after Spencer suffered a tear in his left thigh muscle during Saturday night's preseason game against Denver.

Coach Jim Mora made the injury announcement during an interview with Seattle's KJR radio on Monday morning.

Mora said Spencer injured the quadriceps muscle in his left leg and will "absolutely" miss at least the first two regular season games, barring a miraculous recovery.

Spencer was taken off the field by a motorized cart in the second quarter of Saturday night's preseason win over Denver.

"That's a tough one," Mora said. "I don't want to put a timetable on it, but he won't be back soon. Hopefully sooner rather than later. But it's not going to be two weeks, it's going to be into the season."

According to the Seattle Times, Spencer suffered a second-degree quadriceps tear that would require four to six weeks of recovery time.

Steve Vallos or rookie Max Unger will take over for Spencer at center. Spencer, a first-round draft pick in 2005, missed five games last season because of injury. He is entering the final season of his rookie contract.

Vallos has been working as the No. 2 center in training camp. Unger, a second-round choice from Oregon this year, is also a candidate to start at left guard.

The Seahawks' offensive line was already in flux. Incumbent right tackle Sean Locklear is working on the left side while Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones recovers from knee surgery. The Seahawks hope Jones can return for the season opener, but they do not have a definitive timetable for his return. The team plans to re-evaluate Jones in another 10 days or so.

Ray Willis is starting at right tackle while Locklear plays on the left side. The Seahawks' projected starting left guard, Mike Wahle, retired earlier this month when he couldn't recover from a shoulder injury.

"If you're a pessimist, you'd say, 'The sky is falling,'" Mora said, accurately summarizing the feeling of many Seahawks fans. "Well, I'm not a pessimist. I'm an optimist. I say, 'Well, this gives other guys a chance to step up.'"

Yes, 2009 is looking a lot like the Seahawks' horrid, injury-filled 2008 when they finished 4-12. It was their worst record since 1992.

And the starters have played just three quarters of two preseason games.

Not exactly the ideal setup for three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to protect the bad back that cost him nine games last year.

When asked if his team even has enough bodies to practice let alone play, Mora said: "It's right at the edge. It's close, you know. We just had a personnel meeting. We talked about that, with Grey Ruegamer not having practiced much lately. Now, we're going to get him back."

Who'd have thought Seattle would be holding its breath to get Ruegamer, a guard, healthy? The 33-year-old, who has started 17 games in 10 NFL seasons, wasn't even listed on the Seahawks' depth chart three weeks ago. He started a playoff game for the New York Giants in January 2008.

It's come to the point Mora is considering whether he should keep the rookie second-round draft choice Max Unger out of the final two preseason games, to make sure he doesn't get hurt, too, because he's able to play two positions of dire need.

"That's a difficult dilemma. I think it's probably one of the reasons that the league's contemplating cutting back on the preseason, because teams get into that situation. The guy needs to play, but the more a guy plays, the more chance that he could get injured," Mora said.

NFL blogger Mike Sando covers the NFC West for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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