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Nine months after assault, Hamlin back for Seahawks

7/31/2006 - NFL Ken Hamlin Seattle Seahawks + more

CHENEY, Wash. -- Ken Hamlin waited nine months for Monday.

It was the first day in full uniform for the Seahawks safety since two still-at-large suspects
fractured his skull, bruised his brain tissue and created a blood
clot near his brain during a brutal October street fight outside a
downtown Seattle bar.

"I have a chip on my shoulder because I have things to prove
for myself," the 25-year-old Hamlin said after finishing the
milestone practice.

Monday's practice was full-pads but non-contact. Hamlin's first true tackle may not come until Saturday, when the team has a scrimmage that coach Mike Holmgren said "will be just like a game."

"It'd be like a guy coming off a bad knee injury, the first hit
and how he responds to things," Holmgren said. "My feeling is
he'll be just fine -- but I've got to admit we're waiting for that
first big collision."

Hamlin said that might not come until he sees an opponent again,
in the Aug. 12 exhibition opener against Dallas.

Early in the morning of Oct. 17, Seattle police reported two men beat Hamlin with at least a
forearm and, according to one witness, a metallic street sign after
a bar altercation moved outside.

Police spokesman Rich Pruitt said recently the investigation
remains open. No arrests have been made, largely because very few
witnesses who were in the crowded street just after the bar's
closing will talk.

Hamlin spent six days in a hospital, three in the intensive care
unit. Seahawks teammates who visited him in those first days came
back visibly shaken.

"I mean, he was in a situation where he had the potential to
die," fellow safety Michael Boulware said. "That was a very, very
hard time, a very emotional time for our team."

"I think about that every day," Hamlin said.

Hamlin is also fortunate to be playing for one of the pioneering
NFL teams in head injury management.

Seattle's proactive testing of players' brain functioning dates
over a decade, according to the NFL's top consultant on head
trauma, the University of Pittsburgh's Dr. Mark Lovell.

Lovell is the league's director of neuropsychological testing.
He said Seahawks team physician Stan Herring, who rushed to
Hamlin's bedside almost immediately after he arrived at the
hospital, is a rehabilitation doctor by trade.

"So he is more trained in brain rehabilitation than most
guys," on NFL team medical staffs, Lovell said. "They've always
done careful and informed testing."

So while Hamlin slipped in and out of consciousness, Herring and
the Seahawks dived into their specialty. And as they continued to
test Hamlin's memory and cognitive recovery, the Seahawks had their
baseline test results on Hamlin's normal brain functioning --
gathered prior to the assault -- for comparison with the new
results.

Once those results began resembling the old ones, Hamlin was
cleared for practice.

"One of the reasons we do testing is so we can make sure
everything has healed," Lovell said by phone from Pittsburgh. "A
guy can look healed from an X-ray, CAT scan or MRI, but you don't
know."

Hamlin got some ribbing on his first day in pads. He dropped an
interception in the end zone on a pass that linebacker Lofa Tatupu
deflected to him.

"He's moving awfully well," Holmgren said. "I teased him, I
said I guess your hand-eye coordination is the last thing that
comes back,' since he dropped a couple passes.

"Then I realized, 'Wait a minute, you didn't have great hands
before you got hurt."'