By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
RENTON — The sight of Matt Hasselbeck surrounded by four wide receivers, while talking strategy during a down moment at Monday’s practice, was a welcome one for the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s not that the team needs its quarterback to prep his teammates. What was encouraging about seeing him chatting with Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Deion Branch and Bobby Engram was that Hasselbeck actually had four receivers with whom to speak.
“This week is a lot easier than previous weeks,” Hasselbeck said after a 70-minute practice session Monday afternoon.
Branch and Engram spent Monday’s practice working with the first team, signaling that both will probably make their season debuts when the Seahawks face the New York Giants on Sunday.
Koren Robinson, who has yet to play this season while he gets into shape, is also likely to be available Sunday.
And so the Seahawks, who have spent most of the year trying to patch together a receiving corps out of anyone who has ever run a slant route, may well be presented with the pleasant problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen of receivers.
“Right now we have an influx of guys,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “We have, probably, too many. I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true.”
The most anticipated Monday return, of course, was that of Engram. He hadn’t participated in an official practice since early August because of a cracked shoulder bone that the veteran suffered in the preseason opener.
Engram showed signs of rust during the short Monday practice, but the fact that he was out there was welcome sight.
“For the most part, we look good,” Hasselbeck said. “I think now Bobby and myself just (need to) start feeling our way back in.”
Hasselbeck and Engram worked with each other last week, when the players held informal practices at the team’s complex. Receivers coach Keith Gilbertson attended those sessions and said that Engram has had a solid week of practices.
“I think he’s been good,” Gilbertson said. “He doesn’t look rusty to me. He does what he does, and he’s great at what he does. Even if he misses sometimes, he just goes right back out there and gets it right.”
As for how much Engram can play Sunday, Holmgren is still trying to work that all out.
“While he can do some stuff, you really don’t know until he gets hit,” Holmgren said. “The problem with Bobby is he wants to play, and (so) he might not be totally honest with me. I hope he is (ready), but he might not be.”
Branch, meanwhile, had been practicing for nearly a month but had not worked exclusively with the No. 1 offense until Monday.
After the session, Branch proclaimed himself ready to return to the field for a game.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
Branch underwent surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in February, but he said he is not concerned about doing any further damage to the knee.
“Early on, I know there were a couple rumors about me coming back (in the) preseason, and I knew I wasn’t ready then,” Branch said. “But I think I took the right amount of time to give my leg enough time to heal and for me to … have the confidence that I could do it.”
Holmgren said that Branch will probably be eased back into action, playing only a limited number of snaps Sunday.
“If he practices well (this week), and he handles it well, then we’ll have to throw him out there,” Holmgren said. “But to play the whole game, he’s probably not ready to do that.”
The role of Robinson is less clear. With Engram and Branch likely to be back, and McMullen and Colbert coming off solid performances, the snaps at receiver are getting harder to come by.
“Anything I can do to help,” said Robinson, who was signed two weeks ago. “That’s my role. I’m here to help. Whether I play five snaps or 50 snaps, I’m willing.”
Robinson missed the St. Louis game because of what the team called a sore knee. He said Monday that his knee is fine, citing an overall lack of conditioning for the reason he was unable to finish a practice heading into the Rams game.
“My whole body was going through a little something different. And it let me know that,” said Robinson, who practiced while wearing a sleeve on his right knee. “I was tired, and my body wouldn’t let me go.”
Now Robinson is ready to contribute, along with several other wide receivers. The team is so deep at the position that opening-week starter Courtney Taylor was working exclusively with the scout team Monday.
Holmgren said that the rotation for Sunday’s game against the Giants won’t be known until later this week.
One thing that is certain is that the Seahawks are happy to have Engram and Branch back at their disposal.
“We have full confidence in them,” Hasselbeck said. “They’re professionals and have been doing it a long time. They have played in much bigger games than this one — it is a big game, but they have played in bigger games. I anticipate they will be ready to go.”