By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND – After a seven-year hiatus from Monday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks are getting used to playing in the national spotlight. For the second time in as many seasons, Seattle will be on MNF next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
And Dennis Miller’s presence won’t be the only thing that separates it from a typical game.
“If a young man has Pro Bowl aspirations, people vote based on what kind of a Monday Night game you have,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said Monday, one day after his team beat the San Diego Chargers to improve to 2-2 on the season. “Plus it’s night and it’s noisy and there’s a festiveness to the whole deal. It’s different.”
Preparation for the game will also be different, but not by much. Today is a typical off day, then the team will practice the next three days – as usual. Saturday is what Holmgren calls a “bonus day,” because the team has an extra 24 hours of going over the plays before departing for Kansas City early Sunday morning.
“It’s another day to look at film, get a little bit more prepared,” fullback Mack Strong said. “Probably more importantly, for guys with little nicks and bruises, it’s another day to heal up.”
And on the eighth day, the Seahawks will face the Chiefs. Seattle heads into the meeting with a 12-5 all-time record on Monday Night and an NFL-best .706 winning percentage.
“Obviously there’s a lot more put on it from the media standpoint,” quarterback Jon Kitna said of playing on MNF. “When we go out and play, besides the initial excitement when you walk on the field, once that settles down it’s just a game. It’s not that much different.”
“I don’t want anybody to question my courage or my heart,” Kitna said Monday while nursing a few minor bruises. “Sometimes you just have to sacrifice your body for the team. It hurts – but that’s just the nature of the business.”
Holmgren appreciates Kitna’s grit, but wouldn’t mind his quarterback taking less punishment.
“I think he’s probably thinking very much about not throwing a bad pass or throwing an interception, particularly after the start we had to the season,” Holmgren said. “That’s an admirable thing, a good thing. He’s got to learn when to throw it away just to stay healthy. He cannot get hit like that every game or he won’t last very long.”
Holmgren was frustrated with the play of punt returner Charlie Rogers, but expects the second-year player to bounce back following a two-fumble performance. As for rookie placekicker Kris Heppner, who has hit six of nine field goals and sent a 34-yard wide right Sunday, Holmgren is getting impatient.
“The options are, Kris either gets better, or I replace Kris,” Holmgren said Monday. “Those are the options. There’s two options.”
Heppner’s kickoffs have also lacked distance and height, which could factor in to any future decision.
Doug Pelfrey and Todd Peterson are the biggest names on the waiver wire, but Peterson is still nursing a torn adductor muscle that may have played a part in his release by the Seahawks last month.
Some other disturbing numbers include the Seahawks’ offensive and defensive ratings – 27th and 23rd in the NFL, respectively – and Kitna’s 63.2 rating. Kitna’s mark ranks 13th in the AFC, and 28th in the NFL. The only starters with worse ratings are Tennessee’s Steve McNair (58.2), Cincinnati’s Akili Smith (41.3) and San Diego’s Ryan Leaf (40.0).
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