Hawk lineman faces NFL’s top sacker Sunday

  • Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 21, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Scott M. Johnson

Herald Writer

KIRKLAND – Don’t expect Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Todd Weiner to shy away from his latest and greatest challenge.

Weiner, the Seahawks’ starting right tackle, has the unenviable task of facing NFL sack leader Michael Strahan when Seattle faces the New York Giants on Sunday. And he can hardly wait.

“It’s definitely a great challenge for me,” the Seahawks’ 26-year-old lineman said. “I’m facing the greatest pass rusher in the NFL right now. It’s definitely going to show where I’m at. I look at it as a great opportunity.”

Not only is Strahan leading the league with 17 sacks, he has a legitimate shot to tie the all-time, single-season record. Strahan needs five over the final three games to tie Mark Gastineau’s 17-year-old mark.

Of course, Weiner won’t be out on an island. He’ll get his share of help from tight ends and running backs in an effort to contain the best pass rusher in the game.

Teams have tried all sorts of tactics to slow down Strahan this season.

“Someone tried to have me arrested before the game,” Strahan said during a conference call, then laughed and added: “I’m joking. The biggest thing, I’ve had running backs tackle me. But for the most part, very rarely do I go through the entire game where I just have one guy who is blocking me. I would really prefer that myself, but it just doesn’t happen that often. And I didn’t expect it to, especially after my sack total started to get up higher. People aren’t going to make it easy on me and I don’t expect it to.”

Weiner’s strategy this week has been to spend as much time in the film room as the coaching staff would allow.

“You’ve got to live in there,” he said. “You’re facing a guy that is the highest-paid defensive end, the leader in sacks. He’s it. He’s the Reggie White of today. Anytime you face somebody like that, you have to do everything you can to beat him.”

Weiner has been a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks this season since getting pushed into the starting lineup in place of injured Chris McIntosh. Weiner spent part of training camp learning to play guard before McIntosh’s neck stinger forced him into action during the preseason.

Any questions about Weiner’s pass blocking ability were answered a few weeks ago when he held San Diego’s Marcellus Wiley without a sack. Wiley currently ranks second in the AFC with 12 sacks.

“This season, (Weiner has) been a very valuable part of our success in the running game,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “And I’ve seen improvement in his pass protection, too. He’s done a good job for us.”

Watters has surgery: Seahawks running back Ricky Watters had surgery on his broken right ankle Thursday and is not expected to make the trip to New York. Holmgren said he and Watters have not discussed the running back’s future.

Watters was not on hand at Friday’s practice, where he would have been awarded the offensive game ball for last week’s win over Dallas. Willie Williams (defense) and Tim Terry (special teams) also were honored with game balls.

Back in the spotlight: With Watters on injured reserve and out for the remainder of the season, Shaun Alexander will return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Giants.

Injury update: Defensive linemen Lamar King (strained calf) and Antonio Cochran (sore back) are the only two active players in danger of missing Sunday’s game because of injury.

Linebacker Marcus Bell, cornerback Ken Lucas, fullback Mack Strong and guard Chris Gray missed practice time this week to heal injuries, but took part in Friday’s session.

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