RENTON, Wash. -- Russell Okung walked around with just the slightest noticeable limp and without a protective boot sheltering his left foot.
Both were positive signs for the Seattle Seahawks, who became far too accustomed during Okung's rookie season to ankle problems that sidelined their first-round pick and franchise left tackle.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Saturday that Okung sprained his left ankle in Thursday night's preseason opener against San Diego, but the injury is not nearly as severe as the high ankle sprains that plagued Okung's rookie year.
"Russell is not nearly as bad as it looked. He's walking around fine, not in a boot. We're not talking about how long yet but it's nothing like the one's he had," Carroll said. "I don't know if we can call it mild or not, but he was out walking around and moving, and he's doing the toe raises and stuff so he's way more active than he was at any time early in those other ankle injuries that he had."
Later, Carroll said it's conceivable that Okung could be ready for the season opener on Sept. 11 at San Francisco and that the coaching staff is working with that idea in mind.
Okung was injured in the first quarter of Seattle's 24-17 exhibition victory over the Chargers. Carroll said after the win that Okung "felt something pop" as he blocked, but his legs were not contacted on the play.
"Obviously, you'd like to have the same guys in there the whole year but injuries happen in this league. Hopefully he's back sooner than later," new Seahawks left guard Robert Gallery said. "He can still sit in the meetings and know what is going on but when he gets back we'll pick it up fast. He's a smart guy, he knows what we're doing and we work pretty well together."
Okung, who signed a $58 million deal after being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft, missed six games during his rookie season due to a pair of high ankle sprains. The first came in the Seahawks' second preseason game when his right ankle was rolled on. He sat most of the first four weeks, then injured his left ankle a couple of weeks after returning.
Okung missed six games and most of two others in his rookie season.
"The time frame we dealt with last time is not the time frame we want to deal with this time," Carroll said.
Okung's injury comes in the midst of an already shortened time frame trying to learn the new zone blocking schemes of offensive line coach Tom Cable. Gallery and Okung spent just five full practices working together on the left side of Seattle's offensive line before Okung was injured on the first offensive series against the Chargers.
"He's done very well. He's had a great camp, so far, and he's studied really hard in the offseason when he had his chance. It's just a normal setback for a guy who has a sprained ankle."
Tyler Polumbus will get the first shot at taking Okung's spot at left tackle.
Carroll also said Saturday he was impressed with how quickly quarterback Charlie Whitehurst has picked up the new system of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Whitehurst played most of the second and third quarters in San Diego and finished 14 of 20 for 115 yards, completing nine of his final 11 throws.
But Carroll wouldn't go so far as reopening the quarterback competition between Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson. Carroll had previously said the Seahawks are going with Jackson as their starter, and once Whitehurst became more familiar with Bevell's offense he would get opportunities to compete for the position.
"The competition I thought it would take a month or something or six weeks but it's really come on a little sooner," Carroll said. "It's great to have a couple of guys who can play. ... The quarterback position, like the tight end position feels really strong."