Seattle’s Smoke & Mirrors-Hasselbeck will start Sunday Night!

Matt Hasselbeck was able to get in some work Friday, but the plan is to continuing preparing as if backup QB Charlie Whitehurst will start against the Rams on Sunday night.

Matt Hasselbeck’s will-he-or-won’t-he situation took a step toward the positive on Friday when the Seahawks’ starting quarterback was able to do some work in practice.

Hasselbeck, who strained muscles in his left hip and buttock in last week’s game against the Buccaneers in Tampa, is listed as questionable for Sunday night’s winner-takes-the-division game against the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field. That designation means there is a 50-percent chance he will be able to play.

But coach Pete Carroll said after practice that the team is proceeding as if backup Charlie Whitehurst will make his second NFL start in a game that will determine which team wins the NFC West title and hosts a game in the first round of the playoffs next weekend.

The Seahawks are 6-9 and a game behind the Rams (7-8) entering their regular-season finale. If they finish tied, the Seahawks will advance based on a better division record (4-2 vs. 3-3).

“Charlie’s going,” Carroll said. “We’ve been committed to that, because that’s what we can count on and that’s what we know. Charlie had a good solid week. He did everything that we needed him to do. So he’s ready for the game.”

The Seahawks’ Friday practices are more like a walk-thru, but the fact that Hasselbeck took snaps, threw passes and moved around on his injured hip during the padless 40-minute session was significant nonetheless.

“I was a little bit surprised that he was able to move around as much as he did today,” Carroll said. “He’s not ready to play a game today, but he got some work done. He needed to feel getting in the huddle and making his calls.

“It’s going to make him feel better about the plan if he has a chance.”

Carroll’s plan has not changed, however. Hasselbeck will be monitored Saturday to see how he responds from the work he got Friday. He will continue to receive treatment. He will work out prior to the game, and that’s when the final determination on his status will be made.

“We’ve just got to see if he can run and play,” Carroll said. “We don’t know.”

Is the situation as simple as if Hasselbeck can go on Sunday he starts?

“No. It’s not that simple,” Carroll said. “Charlie is ready to go, and in my mind that is how we go until we know otherwise or we have more information. We don’t have enough right now. This is just a step – this is the first step – to figuring out how Matt can handle the physical stuff.

“So I don’t want us to be distracted by that. Matt, he’s diligently going about preparing to play. And that’s exactly what we need him to do. If it’s possible, he’s going to will it to happen.”

That has been Hasselbeck’s mindset all week. He wants to play in this game that means so much to his team.

“I’m rooting for him,” Carroll said. “Just because I’d love to have him with us and be an active part of this game, so we’ll see what happens.”

Approaching the game as if he will be the starter has helped Whitehurst’s preparation this week. He has looked more comfortable and thrown the ball better than during the week prior to his first NFL start – in Week 9 against the New York Giants, when Hasselbeck was out because of a concussion.

Since that 41-7 loss, Whitehurst played in the fourth quarter of the Week 10 win over the Cardinals in Arizona; replaced Hasselbeck late in the third quarter of the Week 14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest; and played the final three quarters last week after Hasselbeck went out.

“Heading into the week knowing how things were going to go was all part of getting him mentally ready to go,” Carroll said. “We’ve been committed to that thought and Charlie has taken that to heart. He’s been very comfortable with stuff. He’s been active and open and kind of bouncing around.

“He had a very solid week for us.”

The coaches also have worked on giving Whitehurst a game plan that he can feel solid about.

“We’ve looked to him in tailoring the plan – things that he loves to do and the things that he’s really confident at – as you do any week with your starter,” Carroll said. “This is the second time we’ve had a chance to do it with Charlie, and with a lot more information than we’ve had before because we’ve seen him out there more.

“It’s Charlie’s second start of his life in the NFL, so we have to keep that in mind – that we’ve got to take care of him and make sure that he can play a game he’s really in command of by the way we call it and direct it and all of that. That’s been the intention throughout the week, and he’s very much in command of what we’re doing.”