Coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that the Seahawks will take "all the time we need" to settle on a starter, noting the two and a half weeks they have between Friday's preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys and the Sept. 12 opener against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos.
Carroll said Smith remains ahead but that he's "wide open" to the possibility that Lock could overtake him.
Carroll didn't specify when he had initially planned to make a decision but said it changed when Lock was sidelined with COVID-19 last Tuesday, two days before he was set to make his first start of the summer in Seattle's second preseason game against the Chicago Bears. Lock returned Sunday and has taken part in all three practices this week, sharing first-team reps with Smith on Tuesday.
Carroll on Wednesday said Smith will start against the Cowboys on Friday, but Lock will play "most of the game for us."
"I'm wide open for whatever happens," Carroll said. "Geno's been the guy in the lead position the whole time, and I've protected that thought throughout. He's done a really nice job. He's been very consistent. So we'll just see what happens. There's two more weeks of practice, too, after this. I had a set thought on what we would do with the timeline but that got disrupted, so we're going to use all the time we need."
Smith has taken most of the first-team reps. He started the Seahawks' mock game and then their preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week later. The plan was for Lock to start against Chicago and then go from there. Lock took all the first-team reps last Tuesday but struggled while feeling sick, testing positive later that day.
"Today's a really big day for me to find out what they look like today," Carroll said before practice. "A guy's coming back from COVID. He made it back two days ago, did fine, made it through yesterday in all the walk-through stuff, did fine. Let's see how he goes today and see we'll see where it fits. But I'm not closing the book on anybody competing for their spots. We have two enormous weeks coming up: The finish of this one, [then] next week is a huge week for us and then we come back with another full week and an extra day. So we've got a lot of time here to work it out."
Lock, acquired from Denver in the Wilson trade, outplayed Smith in the Aug. 6 mock game at Lumen Field and was having a strong night against Pittsburgh with a pair of touchdown passes until committing a late gaffe. He lost a fumble when he was failed to account for an unblocked rusher off the edge.
"He played really well," Carroll said. "His rhythm was good. I go back to the Lumen game, too, because that was the other one we were using for the evaluation. He was really quick with the football. I'd like to continue to see that happen. When it comes right down to it, we missed something right at the end and gave the ball up. I'd just like to see him finish the game and finish making the plays that he's capable of making. He's shown a lot of really good stuff. I think he had two of three drives where he scored coming out against [Pittsburgh]. But we're in a different setup now because of last week's game."
The Seahawks went scoreless on seven first-half drives behind Smith last week against Chicago. He finished 10-of-18 for 112 yards, but at least three of his incompletions were drops.
Asked whether the Seahawks could play two quarterbacks in the regular season, Carroll said it's a possibility but not the plan.
"I could go ahead and just call it, but I want to let the guys battle and let them show where they are and let us get as much information as possible," he said. "Geno's done a really good job of being in that position. His voice is solid. He's on point all the time. He's been very consistent with his work all of that, and Drew has been really sharp. I know it's not supposed to be a good situation when you have two quarterbacks. It means you don't have one, is the old saying. I don't know that. We might have two ones. We'll see what happens."
Carroll initially said he expected rookie running back Kenneth Walker III to be back by the opener from his hernia procedure, but he has since backed off that thought. Seattle's second-round pick has been in line for a significant role alongside Rashaad Penny.
"I don't know how to call what's going to happen because it's such an unusual circumstance that he has," Carroll said. "He's really tough, he's making big progress every day. He just feels more comfortable. I think he sneezed the other day and made it through it. So he's doing fine. But how many weeks is it going to take? I don't know that. The docs aren't telling us that either, so I think a lot's going to have to do with him.
"If you're going to bank on him, he's going to make it back in a hurry. He's really tough. He's very demanding of himself. So we'll see how it goes, but we're going to be hopeful for that to happen."