RENTON — Donovan McNabb knows Matt Hasselbeck pretty well, thanks to the television advertisements they’ve done together for Chunky Soup.
What the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback has not seen, not since the second game of the 2001 season, is Hasselbeck competing against him in an actual football game. The last three times the Eagles played the Seattle Seahawks, McNabb was nursing injuries while Hasselbeck took on guys like A.J. Feeley (twice), Mike McMahon and Koy Detmer.
It’s looking more and more like the Pro Bowl quarterbacks and soup spokesmen will pass like ships in the night again this Sunday afternoon.
While McNabb is knocking on wood during his first injury-free season since 2004, Seattle’s Hasselbeck may be on the verge of missing his fourth consecutive game due to a bulging disk in his back.
“Hopefully, with all the stuff he’s doing, we can get him back on the field at some point,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said during his Wednesday press conference. “But that’ll be on a week-to-week basis.”
While saying that Hasselbeck’s back has shown improvement, Holmgren pronounced that his starting quarterback will not play Sunday against the Eagles.
If Hasselbeck sits again, it would match his longest inactive streak since taking over as starter in 2001. He served four consecutive games as Trent Dilfer’s backup in 2002 and missed four games due to a knee injury in 2006. Hasselbeck has missed only 12 games due to injury during his seven-plus seasons in Seattle.
The Seahawks’ quarterback was in Los Angeles earlier this week to see a specialist, and Holmgren said the results were encouraging.
“As far as I can tell, he’s making progress,” Holmgren said. “His leg is a little stronger, so that, to me, was some light at the end of the tunnel there.”
Hasselbeck has not spoken to the local media, other than his paid weekly appearances on KIRO radio, since Oct. 6. He said during a Tuesday appearance on his radio show that the recent trip to L.A. to see specialist Robert Watkins showed signs of improved health but no clearance to start practicing again.
“I can’t pass the walk-on-your-heels test,” Hasselbeck told KIRO on Tuesday. “I’ve got a weakness in my leg. It doesn’t feel different, but because of the nerve in my back, it’s shutting off the muscles that are supposed to work in your legs.
“I’m confident I’ll get better. (Dr. Watkins) told me I won’t need surgery and probably never will. That’s good.”
Hasselbeck was at the team complex on Wednesday but showed no visible signs of injury.
“I have a little bit of a dead leg,” he told KIRO on Tuesday. “I have no pain in my back, no pain in my leg. Most of it’s just frustration.”
Seneca Wallace is expected make his third consecutive start for the Seahawks on Sunday. He is 3-3 as a starter, dating back to the 2006 season when he started four games in place of Hasselbeck.
“He’s the quarterback right now,” Holmgren said, “and the quarterback is a very important position on this team. He has now got to continue to improve each week.”
While the Seahawks’ starter is likely to miss the game on Sunday, Philadelphia will have the somewhat unfamiliar look of McNabb as the starter. He hasn’t started against Seattle since 2001, when the Eagles pasted Hasselbeck and the Seahawks 27-3 at Husky Stadium.
“The other opportunities that we’ve played (Seattle), obviously I was injured and out, and things didn’t really go as well as I would like them to,” McNabb said during a Wednesday conference call. “But that is in the past. It’s a new year, a new day.”
The only four members of the Seattle defense who have faced McNabb — linebacker Julian Peterson, defensive end Patrick Kerney and safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell — did so while playing with other teams. Most of the Seahawks have never played against the five-time Pro Bowler.
“They’re a good offense, and with their Pro Bowl quarterback, it’s definitely going to be a challenge for our defense,” defensive back Jordan Babineaux said. “That’s why I’m looking forward to the experience. You have to accept the challenge.”
Added defensive tackle Rocky Bernard: “It’s always a good thing when the star quarterback isn’t playing. We’ll just have to see how we match up.”
McNabb is looking forward to his first action at Qwest Field. He just won’t get to play against his soup buddy.
“It’s a situation no one wants to be a part of, especially when you get things going and then you get hit (with an injury),” said McNabb, who missed games against the Seahawks in 2002 (ankle), 2005 (sports hernia) and 2007 (ankle/thumb) due to health problems. “I’ve been through my little shares of little injuries, but I’m healthy now. Thank God for that.
“At some point in your career, you’re going to go through it. Matt’s doing it right now, and there are other quarterbacks: Peyton (Manning), Tom (Brady), the list goes on. They can say whatever they want about a guy not being durable or whatever, (but) you get injured in this game.”