A recap of the activities on Day Four of wild-card playoff week:
Matt Hasselbeck. Not the Matt Hasselbeck who will start Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field; the Matt Hasselbeck who was not able to start Sunday night’s division-clinching game against the St. Louis Rams.
Before the Seahawks took the field at Qwest last week – with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback – Hasselbeck “addressed” the team in the locker room. The team’s injured starting QB was animated, invigorated and demonstrative.
“How do you guys know about that? Was that on TV?” Hasselbeck asked today when asked about why he felt the need to deliver the fiery pep talk.
Told that the moment had been captured in a photograph (above), he shrugged and offered, “Oh. OK. I don’t know. I wasn’t playing, definitely wasn’t playing. Probably – looking back – because I felt like I wanted to help the team.
“It was a big win for us. Owning our division is very important to me. It took a long time to really own our division – not just win it, but just own it every year; year after year.”
That was the case from 2004-07, when the Seahawks won four consecutive NFC West titles, and no other team in the division posted a winning record during the four-year stretch.
“I really want us to get back to that,” Hasselbeck said. “I thought this year was an opportunity to start that again, even through all the craziness that we had. But just knowing that I might not get a chance to play in the game, I think it was important that I offer something – something more than little tips as we’re looking at the pictures on the sidelines.”
Hasselbeck will start against the Saints, now that coach Pete Carroll is confidence that Hasselbeck has recovered sufficiently from the strained muscles in his left hip and buttock that he got in the Week 16 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.
But back to Hasselbeck’s emotional display before last week’s game.
“He just felt it was time to say something,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “He’s the leader. He’s the captain of the team. And it worked.”
Especially for those other players who usually address the team before games.
“We thought that meant he was playing,” middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “But it was just good to hear from somebody else. Usually it’s myself or Law (strong safety Lawyer Milloy). Sometimes, you don’t want to think it, but maybe your words can fall on deaf ears.
“So I’m glad someone stepped up.”
Gregg Williams. The Seahawks respect the Saints’ defensive coordinator. Not just because he’s been doing it for so long, but because he does it so well.
“He’s a very good defensive coordinator,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s one of the toughest guys to go against as a quarterback. He’s been a head coach; he’ll probably be a head coach again here soon. It wouldn’t surprise any of us that are studying him.
“They do what they do. They blitz you a little bit, but it’s not like they rely on it. Sometimes you’ll see teams blitzing because they have to. It’s not really that. He just mixes it up, they’re very multiple and they make plays. Going back to last year, they’re World Champs for a reason and I think a big part of that reason is how well their defense has played.”
Bates is the one who will be matching wits – and schemes – against Williams on the sideline Saturday. Just as he did in the Week 11 games against the Saints in New Orleans.
“You watch every game and it’s different,” Bates said of Williams’ game plans. “He’s one of the top defensive coordinators in the league.
“I have a lot of respect for him. Every game plan he comes up with different blitzes, different coverages. So I’m sure we’re going to see something totally different.”
ON THE FIELD
The players held their 45-minute walk-thru in the indoor practice facility on this Thursday that was actually Friday because this week’s game is being played on Saturday.
The big development came after practice, when Carroll announced that Hasselbeck would start this week.
“This was not a decision that had much weighing on it other than Matt’s health,” Carroll said. “I told him on Monday he was going to start if he could just make it through the week and he could respond from last week. So we’re ready to go.”
For a peek at practice, check out this photo gallery from Brain Pan.
The official report, as released by the team:
Did not practice
OT Sean Locklear (not injury related)
That’s it, again. A team ravaged by injuries all season is relatively healthy heading into the postseason. “We’re very healthy at this time, fortunately,” Carroll said. “This late in the year, to have this many guys available, we feel lucky to have that.”
Locklear is scheduled to return to Seattle tonight and rejoin the team in the morning. He has been dealing with what Carroll called “a very serious family situation that he had to take care of.”
In Locklear’s absence, Stacy Andrews has been playing right tackle with the No. 1 line, after starting 12 games at right guard earlier in the season.
“Stacy had a great week,” Carroll said. “This is Stacy’s natural position. He was excited about the opportunity to play it all week long. We could play with Stacy right now. He would do fine for us. We still have to see how Sean is when he returns, because he’s been through a lot of stuff here. But I’m counting on Sean to play for us. But Stacy’s ready to go.”
For the Saints:
Did not practice
LB Danny Clark (hamstring)
TE Jimmy Graham (ankle)
DL Anthony Hargrove (knee)
FS Malcolm Jenkins (knee)
TE Jeremy Shockey (groin)
TE David Thomas (knee)
DE Alex Brown (shoulder)
WR Marques Colston (knee)
LB Anthony Waters (ankle)
Shockey and Thomas took part in all phases of practice after being limited Wednesday.
The Saints were schedule to fly to Seattle tonight and hold a walk-thru at Qwest Field on Friday.
STAT DU JOUR
The Saints converted a league-high 48.8 percent of their third-down situations (106 of 217) during the regular season, including 11 of 15 (77 percent) in their Week 11 win over the Seahawks.
YOU DON’T SAY
“We really don’t focus on the opponent; we really don’t focus on who we’re playing. Actually, it’s kind of funny because Pete always says, ‘Hey, I don’t care who they bring in here – they could bring in the World Champs!’ And the irony is they really are bringing in the World Champs, so there you go.” – Hasselbeck, on one of Carroll’s mantras in his first season as coach