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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Pro Bowl guard Mike Wahle a good fit for Seahawks




Pro Bowl guard may finally be one to fill Hutch void

May 7, 2008

By CLARE FARNSWORTH

KIRKLAND -- As Julius Jones was heading toward the left side of the line, Mike Wahle suddenly appeared from seemingly nowhere to take out the linebacker and spring Jones up the field for a nice gain.

When Wahle turned to head back to the huddle, he was greeted by line coach Mike Solari, who gave the veteran guard an atta-boy hand slap.

That, in one blur of a block, is the exact reason the Seahawks signed Wahle in February after the Carolina Panthers released him.

At 304 pounds, the 6-foot-6 Wahle is not a mauler who uses his bulk to bully defensive linemen. His game is one of movement and quick strikes.

While he is not Steve Hutchinson -- but then, who is? -- Wahle appears to be the player who can finally fill the voluminous void created when the Seahawks let the All-Pro left guard get away in the free agency after the 2005 season.

"Bringing in a guy like Wahle, that's the closest thing we've had to Hutch in a long time," guard/center Chris Gray said. "It's a great addition for our offense."

Wahle doesn't care to discuss why he's no longer with the Panthers, the team that signed him in free agency in 2005 after he had spent seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Despite playing in two Pro Bowls (2005-06), he was unceremoniously cut.

But sources say his release was strictly to create space under the salary cap, and that some in the Panthers' organization were against the move.

Wahle just offers a whatever shrug.

"I'm just happy to be here," he said. "It couldn't have worked out better. With everything that was going on in Carolina, I'm thrilled to be out of there and I'm thrilled to be here."

The feeling is mutual. Club president Tim Ruskell and vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster had given Solari a list of guards who might be available. But all concerned quickly settled on Wahle as the preferred choice.

"We knew he was the guy that fit," Solari said. "It was a no-brainer."

Wahle quickly resurfaced in Seattle for several reasons.

First, Mike Holmgren was the coach in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Wahle in the second round of the 1998 supplemental draft.

"We needed Mike, or a player like Mike," Holmgren said. "He's a veteran. He's been successful. You know he's a good football player. He brings an attitude. He's smart."

But Wahle brings more than past ties to a coach who is in his final season with the Seahawks. His style and athletic ability fit the way Solari likes his linemen to play.

"We want athletic linemen who can pull and move in space," Solari said. "That helps you with different blocking schemes and gives you more variation.

"Mike is athletic and can move in space."

Offered offensive coordinator Gil Haskell: "Wahle is excellent; a great acquisition. You'd like to have about five of those guys."

That's a lot of expectations to step into.

"There's always pressure to perform," Wahle said. "Especially when you come in and one of the things they're looking to do in the offseason is fix the running game.

"But it comes with the territory. I'm a good player. I have confidence in myself. I've been asked to do that every place I've been, and been successful at it. It's just another challenge."

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