RENTON — Matt Hasselbeck did not make his anticipated return to the practice field Thursday, casting some doubt over whether the Seahawks’ indispensable quarterback will be ready to make his scheduled start next week against Arizona.
That didn’t mean Hasselbeck wasn’t working. He was sweating inside the training room, going through a battery of exercises with a trainer. Their session was continuing a half-hour after the no-pads practice ended.
Friday’s practice is a light walkthrough, hardly an extensive test of Hasselbeck’s back and knee. The Seahawks then leave for Miami to play the Dolphins (4-4) on Sunday, where backup Seneca Wallace will make his fourth consecutive.
“Some guys are banged up and new guys are stepping in. We are working out there, grinding away,” Wallace said.
Seattle has gone 1-3 this season with Hasselbeck, who was the NFC’s lowest-rated passer when he hyperextended his knee Oct. 5 in a loss at the New York Giants. And the Seahawks are 1-3 without him.
On Wednesday, coach Mike Holmgren said Hasselbeck had reached the strength benchmarks doctors had set for his hyperextended right knee. Hasselbeck has twice been to Los Angeles to see a surgeon about the bulging disk in his back that was weakening the knee.
The coach’s hope was for the three-time Pro Bowl passer to run the scout team in practice this week to ease his way back.
Asked if he had any more reason to believe Hasselbeck would finally start on Nov. 16 against the Cardinals, who lead the NFC West by three games with eight games remaining, Holmgren said Wednesday: “Well, right now — right now — that’s kind of my plan. He has to do some things this week and feel good about it.”
That plan was still on hold Thursday, just as Holmgren feared it would be earlier this week.
“I think he’s about there. But again, we’ve said a lot of things in this room in the last eight weeks,” the coach said Monday.
Holmgren is steadfast in thinking injuries — and nothing else — is holding back the defending four-time division champions. They have had 14 players who have started a game also miss at least one due to being hurt. They’ve had seven injuries at wide receiver.
“I guarantee you, this’ll flip when you have all your guys. I guarantee you. It’s just where we are right now,” Holmgren said.
Wide receiver Deion Branch also missed practice again because of his bruised heel. He remains out indefinitely.
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu rode a stationary bike during practice to keep his sore groin loose, then rejoined the first-team defense. Fullback Leonard Weaver was also back from a bruised foot. Both are expected to play at Miami.
Seattle has the league’s 31st-ranked offense, with just 255.5 total yards per game. It has the NFL’s worst passing offense at 141.3 yards passing per game. That has Holmgren saying he hasn’t seen anything like this since he was coaching an 0-10 team in the Bay Area during the early 1970s.
The Seahawks’ sorry offense has Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni sounding like Lou Holtz did before his old teams at Notre Dame would play some overmatched Nowhere State. Pasqualoni actually said this of the Seahawks on Thursday: “They definitely scare you. They definitely, definitely worry you to death.”
Imagine if Pasqualoni was in Holmgren’s shoes.
“I hope before all this is all said and done we can have some fun again. And some of that is getting some of those guys back,” Holmgren said, sighing. “And we’ve been waiting, and optimistically talking about it. We’ll see. I hope we can get it going again.”