Hawks QB Hasselbeck returns to practice, waits on clearance for Sunday
RENTON, Wash. -- Good thing for the Seahawks Matt Hasselbeck didn't listen to his hand-picked doctor.
"So put in a good word for me," he joked before going to see Dr. Stan Herring, the team's rehabilitation physician.
"I can't imagine they would say anything negative," he said. "I guess the next thing would be seeing how I feel [Thursday]. From everything I can tell right now, everything is really good and I hope to play Sunday."
Coach Mike Holmgren doesn't need to see any more. He's been desperate for Hasselbeck to return to rescue Seattle's 31st-ranked passing game and his 10th and final season as Seattle's coach.
"I have to see that he's breathing and practicing. That's all I need to see," Holmgren said.
All this comes less than a month after Hasselbeck sought out a renowned California back surgeon to rebut the team's assessment that the quarterback should be sidelined. But Dr. Robert Watkins told Hasselbeck he shouldn't play the remainder of the season, he should rest the bulging disk that was causing nerve problems that were weakening his hyperextended right knee.
Hasslebeck had a second epidural containing corteisone in two months soon after the last game he played, a loss at the New York Giants on Oct. 5. He said he felt "stiff" even before the game, then he got twisted on a sack but kept playing into the third quarter.
After telling Hasselbeck he should probably sit out the season, Watkins prescribed a series of core strengthening exercises for his back.
"Those things went well ... I think today was a great start," Hasselbeck said. "I've been working really hard to get back. I've been wanting to get back for a long time."
The Seahawks went 1-4 with Charlie Frye and Seneca Wallace starting. Seattle was just 1-3 with Hasselbeck. He was the NFC's lowest-rated passer when he got hurt and would be the lowest-rated in the league now if he had enough throws to qualify.
Holmgren has repeatedly said that Hasselbeck struggled because of seven injuries at wide receiver this season. One of those, Deion Branch's bruised heel, improved enough for the former Super Bowl MVP to also return to the starting offense on Wednesday.
With the Seahawks' season seemingly lost, many have wondered if it's even worth the risk of further injury to bring Hasselbeck back. While saying "I'm definitely pushing the envelope here on time frames," Hasselbeck added he's never considered sitting out the rest of the season.
"There have been weeks here where I felt like, 'Hey, I can play,'" he said. "It was just one of those things where I couldn't get cleared."
The team first acknowledged Hasselbeck has a bulging disk on the season's opening weekend. Hasselbeck and Holmgren then downplayed the condition as minor, after the quarterback with a career completion percentage of 60.3 was 17-for-41 and got sacked five times in a Week 1 loss at Buffalo.
Then came the weakened knee, the second cortisone shot and the five-week absence -- his longest since Holmgren acquired him from Green Bay in 2001 to make him Seattle's starter.
So did the 33-year-old man who has played through a separated non-passing shoulder, a sprained knee, broken fingers, an injured passing elbow, a strained oblique, two bruised thighs, bruised ribs and a groin injury in the last seven years think his career was in jeopardy this time?
"Not really. I've played through so much more pain. I've played with things that are far worse, and you just muscle through it," he said. "I think the difference with this has been, to put it in the words of one of our team doctors, this is just not the sort of thing you muscle through. You just need to rest it."
That frustrated him. That, and everything else about his defending four-time division champions slogging through injuries to 14 starters to fall to the brink of irrelevance with seven games still remaining in the season.
"It's been frustrating for everybody because we're 2-7," he said. "We're not used to that."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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