Hasselbeck coming (back) to pass for Seahawks
RENTON – Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on Monday returned to practice for the first time in three weeks and promptly pronounced himself fit for the season opener against Buffalo on Sunday.
Hasselbeck has not practiced at all since Aug. 19, the Tuesday after the second preseason game against Chicago, because of a sore back. He said he suffered the injury in a practice just before the first exhibition. But he said he is fully healed now and is ready to help the Seahawks defend their NFC West title.
“I feel good. I’m excited to finally get back out there with my teammates,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s been a little frustrating watching, especially because I’ve felt pretty good the last few days. But it’s nice to get out there and throw.”
The Seahawks went through a light 53-minute workout in helmets and shells before they start in earnest on Wednesday. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, tackles Walter Jones and Sean Locklear and wide receiver Deion Branch did not participate. The team is not required to issue an injury report until after Wednesday’s practice.
Also, though the team kept two kickers on its active roster, 13-year veteran Olindo Mare will kick against the Bills.
“They were almost dead even in camp,” special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said. “I guess if you had to separate them, Olindo’s got a little more experience, going on the road in a big game.”
Craig Terrill will start at defensive tackle in place of suspended teammate Rocky Bernard, according to defensive coordinator John Marshall, and second-year defensive back Josh Wilson will replace Jordan Babineaux, also suspended, as the team’s nickel back.
“Any time you take any starters out … it is unsettling,” Marshall said. “But by the time we get to the game, we are going to be fine.”
Rookie defensive tackle Red Bryant will get more playing time with Bernard out, Marshall said. Bryant had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee early in camp and his first exhibition action came in the preseason finale against Oakland.
“He is a big body who is a young guy who has a lot of work to do,” Marshall said. “But he is going to be able to handle it. He needs practice time and game experience. He just needs to do it.”
Hasselbeck looked rusty during Monday’s workout, leading some observers to wonder if he is fully healthy.
During Friday’s game against Oakland, Hasselbeck stood on the sideline in the first half with ice on his back, continually loosening the back with various stretches. After going to the locker room at halftime, he didn’t return to the sideline to watch the second half.
But Hasselbeck insisted he could have played in the exhibitions he missed had it been the regular season. He played every game last season despite a variety of maladies. He said that it was only the rehab that was difficult, but the pain in his back has subsided.
“I think I’m 100 percent healthy,” Hasselbeck said. “I’m not 100 percent in shape. That’s what this week is for. Usually the starters take all the reps, get physically ready that way. I haven’t been throwing a lot but today was a good start. I got everything I was looking for out of today.”
The idle time prevented Hasselbeck from developing a strong rapport with a wide receiver group that has very little experience beyond starting split end Nate Burleson, who had nine touchdown receptions last season and caught a 68-yard touchdown against San Diego in the preseason.
Hasselbeck looked good in the preseason opener against Minnesota, when he completed seven of eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Bobby Engram was Hasselbeck’s starting flanker at the time.
But Engram suffered an injury in that game, sidelining him for six to eight weeks. Ben Obomanu suffered a season-ending collarbone injury on Friday. Courtney Taylor, who will start at flanker on Sunday, is the second-most experienced receiver, with a total of five NFL receptions.
“It is still throwing the pigskin around and playing catch,” Taylor said. “And that is the way I look at it. You have a quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck – who in my opinion is one of the great quarterbacks to play this game, and that’s no lie – he’ll get everything together, we’ll get everything together, and then it is throwing the pigskin and catching it.”
While he wasn’t practicing, Hasselbeck said he was studying film of his receivers, as well as watching them during practice and listening to what receivers coach Keith Gilbertson said he expected of them. Hasselbeck called them “mental reps,” getting to know his teammates even though he was not able to take reps with them.
“That’s just part of playing quarterback,” Hasselbeck said. “You’ve got to know your personnel, know who you’re throwing to. For the most part, though, I feel good about these guys. I think we’ll be OK.”