Good and bad: Seahawks' Mili upgraded; Green done
KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Good news for one battered Seahawks position: Injured tight end Itula Mili may be back for Seattle's Sept. 10 season opener at Detroit.
Coach Mike Holmgren said initial fears following Saturday night's exhibition loss at San Diego that Mili had cartilage damage in his left knee have been allayed. The current replacement for injured starter Jerramy Stevens has a sprained knee.
Mili was on crutches Saturday night, so it briefly appeared that Holmgren might have lost the top two players at the position around which he built last February's Super Bowl game plan. Against the Chargers, three of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's first five passes were to tight ends.
Stevens, a Hasselbeck favorite on third downs last season, is expected to miss another month. Earlier this month, he re-injured the same knee he had surgically repaired in April.
"I'm hopeful we will have him for Detroit," Holmgren said of Mili after Monday's light practice for Thursday's exhibition finale against Oakland.
The news was much worse for free safety Mike Green.
Holmgren announced that the veteran former Chicago starter, acquired in April from the Bears for a sixth-round draft choice, will likely miss the entire season after tearing ligaments in his left foot on Saturday night. Green is scheduled to have surgery.
"He was one of the bright spots of camp, of the new guys who came in," Holmgren said.
Babineaux, listed as a cornerback, has also been the nickel back in passing situations. Veteran Kelly Herndon is now holding that role.
Babineaux is happy with the switch. The undrafted free agent from 2004 played safety at Southern Arkansas.
"I'm a whole lot more comfortable at safety," Babineaux said. "That's a natural position for me."
Mili was the starting tight end until an intestinal blockage last summer sidelined him, and then Stevens' career season kept Mili on the bench. Mili and Stevens did not practice Monday, but both walked off the field after initial stretching wearing only black, protective sleeves over their knees.
Still, the Seahawks are concerned enough about the position that they signed tight end Leonard Stephens, a recent Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cut, on Monday. And they had the three remaining healthy ends on their roster -- Will Heller, Matt Murphy and Stephens -- catching passes out of a machine after practice.
Heller, a former Tampa Bay part-time starter released by Miami after seven games with the Dolphins last season, is known more as a blocker than a receiver. Yet he made a fine, tumbling catch of a 25-yard Seneca Wallace pass to convert a 3rd-and-12 play against San Diego.
So has he added a new, pass-catching dimension -- just in time?
"I hope so, man," he said.
He called Seattle "a perfect fit for me." He said Holmgren's West Coast offense has the same terminology and plays coach Jon Gruden's did in Tampa Bay.
"I'm just trying to prove myself," he said.
Heller will get another chance while starting Thursday's exhibition finale. But given Seattle's recent luck with tight end injuries, he probably shouldn't play much.
Holmgren said LT Walter Jones banged his shoulder Saturday and will not play Thursday, though "pictures" of the shoulder showed no concerning damage. Holmgren said his perennial All-Pro will be "fine" to start the opener. ... Gibran Hamdan, the MVP of NFL Europe in the spring, was one of 15 cuts Monday. So second-year man David Greene has won the third QB job. "We're still learning about David. We know what Gibran is about," Holmgren said. "Unless we saw something dramatically different in practice ... we were going to go with the young guy." Holmgren previously wanted to sign a veteran as the third QB, so he could free Wallace to play receiver. "If I could have gotten a veteran quarterback, I would feel better about it," the coach said of his emergency passer situation. ... Holmgren said WR Darrell Jackson (knee surgery) and DT Marcus Tubbs (Achilles tendon surgery) should practice for the first time next week. He is hopeful both will start against Detroit.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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