Hasselbeck's return not such a warm, cuddly Seahawks feeling
November 27, 2006 7:06pm CST
Seattle's citizens couldn't wait for Matt Hasselbeck to get back playing. They've been in a Chicken Little fuss over the Seahawks' so-so season following a trip to the Super Bowl. But no one was looking forward to the Pro Bowl quarterback's return Monday from being out four weeks with a sprained right knee more than Hasselbeck's teammates. Next time, they may not be quite so anxious to get him back. Even before his first full practice back for the prime-time matchup with the Packers, Hasselbeck was chastising teammates to practice harder, prepare better and just plain buck up. By Wednesday, he was back running the offense at warp speed, compared with the pace at which never-used backup Seneca Wallace operated while going 2-2 in Hasselbeck's place. "In fact, some of the guys were complaining that he was going so fast, they couldn't make their (line) calls," quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn said. "Yet that's the tempo of the game. That's where the game's played." That hasn't been where Seattle had played entering Monday. The Seahawks are counting on a six-game surge back to their expected selves now that Hasselbeck and league MVP Shaun Alexander finally are back from injuries. Packers coach Mike McCarthy was Green Bay's quarterbacks coach in 1999, when Hasselbeck backed up Brett Favre. McCarthy knows Hasselbeck's vigor is a key to his game. "I think he has defined himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the league," McCarthy said. "His leadership and his personality and his fire that he gives on the playing field is all a big part of the success." Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren downplayed the idea his team hasn't practiced well or prepared enough without its starters while mucking through the underwhelming NFC West. He said Hasselbeck is simply asserting his leadership on his way back. Besides, Holmgren has already done his ripping into the team following its ugly loss at San Francisco on Nov. 19. He then apologized to the players for it. "Matt's the leader of the football team," Holmgren said. "It's frustrating for him to watch and not play. As one of the captains, and as a team leader, he tries to instill something on his return, which is a good thing." Hasselbeck isn't going to apologize. He said he's just being an extension of the exacting Holmgren. "I am really just repeating what I hear the coaches saying. I am not sure if everyone hears what they are saying all the time," said Hasselbeck, who is in his sixth season as Seattle's starter since Holmgren traded for him. "I just think the guys that have been around understand a little better what he is talking about when (Holmgren) says, 'Hey, we're setting the standard high.' There is no doubt in my mind certain people get that. I do wonder if everyone is understanding that, really. "And I think it is the job of the guys who have been here to let everybody know: 'Hey, we're not in this just to be OK. We're in this to be great."' Seattle may need Hasselbeck's drive to get anywhere close to great by season's end. Alexander hasn't run the same since his record-breaking 2005, even in the three games before he broke his foot Sept. 24. And the bone remains cracked, raising the question of how much push he will be able to provide late in the season. His offensive line has been injured and often ineffective. Pro Bowl center Robbie Tobeck (hip abscess) and right tackle Sean Locklear (sprained ankle) were to miss Monday night's game. On defense, Seattle's poor tackling helped San Francisco to 262 yards rushing. That was three weeks after Kansas City romped for 191. Minnesota rolled for 175 yards on the ground against the Seahawks. And when they have slowed down opponents' running games, they've been burned with deep passes. So Hasselbeck isn't the only one unhappy with how the Seahawks handled missing their stars -- even though the Seahawks entered Monday night with a 1 1/2 -game lead in the division. "We did OK dealing with that, but I wanted to do better. I had hoped to do better," Holmgren said. "But now, we get guys back, and now we have to show some more consistency. We have to be better on the field now."