A recap of the activities from Day One of wild-card playoff week:
Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. Who starts at quarterback for the Seahawks in Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field?
Pete Carroll isn’t saying. Not because he’s trying to be coy – at least not completely. It’s because the Seahawks’ first-year coach doesn’t have to name a starter today, and wants to get a look at both QBs in practice this week before making the decision.
“We’ll find out where we are in the next day or so and determine that,” Carroll said during his weekly day-after Q&A session when asked who would start this week. “Right now, it looks like we’ll split reps with those guys at practice tomorrow and we’ll just find out where we are.”
The Seahawks will get an early start this week, practicing on Tuesday – the players’ usual “off” day – because they play Saturday.
Whitehurst started Sunday night’s division-clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams, and was 5 of 5 for 85 yards in directing a game-opening drive to the night’s only touchdown. Hasselbeck could have started, but Carroll opted to keep him on the sideline to protect the muscles he strained in his left hip and buttock during the game against the Buccaneers in Tampa the week before.
“It’s just how functional can he be, is really the issue that we have,” Carroll said of Hasselbeck. “He looked terrific in pre-game (warm-ups), way ahead of where we probably would have pictured him to be. But everything was controlled.
“I just felt like he could be vulnerable, and if he didn’t need to play it would be best for us to see if we could make it through it and fortunately we did. Now we have better options than we did last week at this time.”
It was obvious that the decision was not left to Hasselbeck.
“He wanted to play,” Carroll said. “He was ready to battle. I didn’t expect him to just say, ‘Oh, great.’ He took it tough. He tried to talk me into it. He wanted to go. It was perfect. It was exactly the way he should have been.”
As for this week, Carroll said, “Both guys are getting ready to start.”
Leading receiver Mike Williams has signed a three-year contract extension. It’s just the latest uplifting chapter in his made-for-TV-movie of a career.
Williams was given a tryout in April after being out of the league the past two seasons. The Seahawks signed him to a one-year deal, he became the starting split end and ended up catching 65 passes for 751 yards and two touchdowns – including a 4-yarder on that opening drive a against the Rams.
“It’s a statement in a couple different directions,” Carroll said of the team’s commitment to Williams, and his commitment to the team and his former college coach. “It’s a statement that Mike has come back for real, and he’s really made it to the point where he’s instilled the confidence in us to go ahead and keep him around for a good while.
“And he’s still just getting started. Mike’s return, we don’t know – none of us know the impact of being out two years and then just a couple years ago another year (between leaving USC and entering the NFL draft). He has not been consistently involved in the competitive arena like you would like. But we’ve seen tremendous signs from him. And his character and his will to be a terrific football player is really here at hand.”
QUINN MOVING ON
Dan Quinn is still the Seahawks’ defensive line coach, and will be for Saturday’s game against the Saints. But he has been hired to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
“This opportunity for Dan is one that he really, really covets,” Carroll said. “He wants to be in charge. He knows it’s a big-time program. He knows it’s one where he can prove himself. He wants to be a head coach, and will be a head coach very soon.
“I hate to see him go. But I love the guy and will do anything to help him at any time, and I know he’s going to be great head coach real soon.”
The Seahawks won’t have tight end Chris Baker or guard Chester Pitts for Saturday’s game after they were injured against the Rams. Baker, the best blocker among the team’s tight ends, fractured a hip. Pitts got what Carroll called “a pretty serious concussion” when he hit his head on the turf.
Tyler Polumbus started at left guard for Pitts against the Rams and will remain in the lineup for this week’s game. With Baker out, John Carlson and Cameron Morrah will be called upon to do more blocking.
Wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who got a concussion in the Week 16 loss to the Bucs in Tampa, still has not been cleared to return to practice. He is questionable for Saturday’s game.
STAT DU JOUR
The Seahawks are 4-1 in playoff games at Qwest Field and have a four-game winning streak. They lost their first playoff game at Qwest, to the Rams in 2004. Since then, they have defeated the Redskins and Panthers (2005), Cowboys (2006) and Redskins (2007).
YOU DON’T SAY
“We’re going to do some good things here, and (Pete) is the guy to lead us. I’m just going to do my part.” – Williams