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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.

Itula Mili Mili

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.

Safety Michael Boulware, who played most of the Super Bowl on a
frayed knee, is back with the starters after offseason surgery. And
Jordan Babineaux began practicing more Monday at the position.

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.

Notes
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.