By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – Originally, this looked like the week Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren would have to make a decision. Now it appears that Shaun Alexander will be the starting running back for at least three more weeks.
On Oct. 31, Holmgren targeted this week’s game for the return of running back Ricky Watters from a shoulder injury. Last week, Holmgren asked for a little “wiggle room” in regards to that date.
On Monday, he said Watters is still two or three weeks away.
“I think he’s on schedule,” Holmgren said Monday. “The thing’s healing.”
Watters suffered a cracked bone in his right shoulder during the Sept. 30 game at Oakland, and was expected to be out six to eight weeks. Holmgren originally made it sound like he would miss just six weeks, but now the latter seems a more realistic possibility.
Asked whether Alexander’s recent play has reduced the urgency of getting Watters back, Holmgren scoffed.
“Shaun or no Shaun, it’s always been the case with our medical staff here where we’re not going to rush people back in if they’re not ready to play,” Holmgren said. “If they’re ready to play, they’ll play. Ricky’s no different.”
While Watters has been sidelined, Alexander has come on like gangbusters. He currently ranks third in the AFC in rushing (851 yards) and is tied for the conference lead with 10 touchdowns. Watters, on the other hand, was the team’s offensive MVP last season and has been the team’s most consistent performer during the Holmgren era.
Which one will finish the season as starter will not be an easy decision.
“I will deal with that head-on when the time comes,” Holmgren said. “It’s a hypothetical right now. We’re not there yet.”
Rookie wall?: This is the time of year when Steve Hutchinson’s body typically goes into hibernation mode. His University of Michigan football team should have played its final game, and the players would have a month to prepare for a bowl game.
Now that he’s in the NFL, the Seahawks’ rookie guard will have to adjust his body clock.
“I’ve worked hard to stay in good shape,” Hutchinson said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be playing this year or not, so I made sure to come in here in top shape. And I’ve been fortunate, I haven’t had a lot of bumps and bruises.”
El foldo: More than two weeks later, Holmgren is still using a loss to the Washington Redskins game as a source of motivation for his players. The Seahawks came out flat in that game, and lost 27-14.
In hindsight, it may not have been such a bad loss. That was the third of four consecutive wins for the Redskins, who look nothing like the team that started the season 0-5. Washington won at Denver on Sunday, and is back in the hunt for the NFC East title.
“I’m willing to give the Redskins credit,” Holmgren said Monday, “but I know how our team should play. I’m not saying we deserved to win the football game, but I know when we’re not playing hard. … I can (still) refer to that game.”
Long distance confirmation: Holmgren said he called the league office Monday to talk about the controversial instant replay call in Sunday’s win.
“They pretty much agreed with me,” he said. “But there was never a doubt that they would.”
The play in question was a pass to Christian Fauria that was ruled incomplete. Replays were deemed inconclusive, even though it appeared as if Fauria had caught the ball after it bounced off his left foot. To Holmgren’s dismay, the catch did not count.
Injury update: Special teamer Fabien Bownes is expected to recover from a concussion and should be available to practice this week. Defensive end Lamar King, who suffered a strained calf in Sunday’s win, is more of a question mark.
“With Lamar, we’re going to have to watch,” Holmgren said. “He has a calf strain, and those kind of fall into that category where I don’t know how many days or weeks he’s going to be out.”
Quick slants: Alexander isn’t the only Seahawk moving up the AFC rankings. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has spent most of the season as the lowest-rated passer in the AFC, is now ahead of Baltimore’s Elvis Grbac, Cincinnati’s Jon Kitna and Kansas City’s Trent Green. … Alexander already has the 15th-best rushing season in Seahawks history – with seven games to go. He is on pace to challenge Chris Warren’s team record of 1,512 rushing yards. … After missing two pivotal field goals against Miami three weeks ago, kicker Rian Lindell has made good on his last five.