It was a busy day at the Seattle Seahawks practice facility this afternoon, with both quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch returning to practice and preparing to play against Arizona on Sunday.
The team went with just helmets and shells, as Mike Holmgren attempts to ease off the players with no serious hitting during practice. However, the practice remained brisk. With Hasselbeck back, the offense seemed to have more rhythm and move at a quicker pace. Even the huddle breaks were crisper, as the team seemed to respond to having their leader back on the field.
"It felt good," Hasselback said about practice. "I've been working really hard to get back. I've been wanting to get back for a long time. And you know, the first step was this weekend getting cleared by the doctors to practice. Hopefully, for everybody practice all week goes well."
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Hasselbeck says he still has to be cleared to play by Dr. Stan Herring of Seattle, which could happen this evening.
Hasselbeck said pain was not the main factor with his injury, but more of a concern was the nerve aspect of the injury. Hasselbeck said he wanted to play after the Giants game on Oct. 5, but team doctors would not clear him because of the weakness in his knee. That led Hasselbeck to get another opinion from Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles, who confirmed the same diagnosis Seattle team doctors had given him. And all Hasselbeck could do at that point is wait until the strength in his knee returned.
Listen to part of the conversation with Hasselbeck here.
The Seahawks practiced inside because of the rain. Hasselbeck looked better than he did Friday, but still doesn't look like his old self. Branch seemed to move well and looked explosive running his routes.
And, I know we've said this before, but Courtney Taylor, pictured above, looked comfortable running routes and said he's ready to make plays now that he's back in the receiver rotation.
Asked what he learned by sitting on the sidelines, Taylor had this to say:
"I think that's what I really learned -- that you have to go all out on every play," Taylor said. "Especially at this level. Playing against our defense (on scout team), I took a step forward in that aspect of the game."
Branch said after practice that this is the best he felt since he's been in Seattle. He'll practice this week, and if cleared by the training staff he'll play on Sunday.
"It was just good to be on the field with the team," Branch said. "These guys have been working so hard, and for me I'm just trying my best to get back on the field, just seeing these guys go out there and playing in the game, out there fighting every week."
Tight end Will Heller (knee) also returned to practice and should be ready to go on Sunday. Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack also practiced today, getting the majority of the reps at right guard over Ray Willis.
David Hawthorne (calf) went through some individual drills early but did not finish practice.
Players who did not practice include Red Bryant (ankle), Julius Jones (ill), Koren Robinson (knee), C.J. Wallace (hamstring), Seneca Wallace (groin) and Leonard Weaver (ribs). Robinson sitting out was just a precaution. Patrick Kerney (shoulder) also did not go, and will not play this week.