Seahawks' Hamlin ready to hit after brawl

Updated: July 30, 2006, 12:14 AM ET
Associated Press

CHENEY, Wash. -- Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin, sidelined since sustaining a fractured skull and blood clot near his brain in an altercation outside a Seattle nightclub last October, is set to participate in contact drills Sunday.


"You guys just keep the cameras going and we'll see how that first hit goes," the former Arkansas Razorback said Saturday when asked if he was ready to dole out his first hits.

Meanwhile, coach Mike Holmgren said the Seahawks are close to signing their top draft pick, Kelly Jennings, a 5-foot-11, 178-pound cornerback from Miami.

"It seems most of the first-round guys have signed, so I think we're probably very close," Holmgren said.

Holmgren did not say whether Jennings is being fined, but appeared frustrated that his first-round draft pick was not in camp.

"For the life of me, I've never understood that deal: All of a sudden everyone's frantic on the Friday before camp and then, bang, bang, bang, bang, everyone signs," he said. "Why don't they start on Wednesday? But they don't do it that way. I don't know. That's why I don't negotiate contracts any more."

Hamlin's return brought a buzz to camp.

The 25-year-old free safety started six games last season before being placed on injured reserve after the attack.

"I think it's great. That will be to me, if he can come back and play, one of the great stories," Holmgren said after the team's first no-contact workout Saturday morning. "He was hurt. Here's a young man with a bright future. If he can do this, and we think he can, then I think it's a great thing."

Hamlin was beaten by two men in a fight that police say began at a bar and then continued outside. Hamlin spent six days in Seattle's Harborview Medical Center after the assault. No arrests have been made.

"Being out for a little while, you want to get back into the groove or whatever, but physically, it doesn't feel any different," Hamlin said. He was kept out of contact during a recent minicamp while team physicians evaluated his progress.

"I'm just ready to play. It's just another step in the process of preparation for getting ready to play this season," he said. "I'm happy to be back out here, happy to be playing, happy to be with my teammates."

Holmgren said the team wanted to ensure that Hamlin was ready and no longer suffering headaches or dizziness before clearing him to play.

"I think it's clear by everything the doctors have told me. Obviously we want to do the correct thing and I think we have, and now he's just got to go in there and play and my feeling is, he'll be fine," Holmgren said after watching Hamlin practice without pads. "I'm sure he's looking forward to banging around."

The Seahawks opened camp with sidelines littered with players unable to play because of injuries, including defensive ends Grant Wistrom and Joe Tafoya, wide receiver Darrell Jackson and tight end Jerramy Stevens.

Holmgren said he expects all of his players to be back by the final preseason game Aug. 31.

"As I've gotten a little bit older, I probably worry about the injury thing a little bit more. We probably won't bang as much as we have in the past," he said.

With a more experienced team, Holmgren said he has fewer questions about players' abilities. "We'll save the banging around for the games," he said. "That's not to say we won't do it."

Wide receiver Peter Warrick missed the first practice because lightning storms delayed his flight from Florida, Holmgren said. Warrick arrived in time for the afternoon practice, but remained on the sidelines pending a physical exam.

Holmgren, who signed a contract extension in the offseason, said he has shaken off the depression of losing the Super Bowl and has come to camp with batteries recharged.

"I bounced back pretty good," he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press