Photoblog: Seahawks Find a Better Half.

Seattle got back on the winning track against Carolina at Qwest Field, on a day the team officially retired the jersey of famed offensive lineman Walter Jones. A 31-14 over the Panthers moved the Seahawks back into a tie for first place in the NFC West.

Jake Olson, a 14-year-old from Huntington Beach, California battled eye cancer since birth until doctors removed his eyes last year. Since becoming blind, Jake has become a motivational speaker and an inspiration to many. He met coach Pete Carroll during USC's 2009 season and was a guest of the Seahawks on Sunday.

In the Seahawks locker room before the game, running back Marshawn Lynch stretched out and listened to music in front of his locker.

Seahawks defensive backs huddled together before taking the field for pregame warmups.

When the team returned to their locker room after pregame warmups, Kennard Cox applied eye-black patches before heading back out for kickoff.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant is shrouded in fog as he makes his way through the tunnel, ready to be announced as a starter to the roar of the 12th Man.

Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate made a valiant dive for this pass by Matt Hasselbeck which fell incomplete, but a defensive holding call on the Panthers gave the Seahawks a first down and kept the drive alive.

Just before the two-minute warning in the first half, legendary offensive lineman Walter Jones emerged, posing for a photo with team superfan "Mama Blue" before getting his jersey retired in a brief ceremony.

With his mother and children at his side, Walter Jones thanked his former coaches, teammates and the 12th Man as his jersey was officially retired by the team.

As he did earlier in the season, Golden Tate found himself flying through the air after reception over the middle.

Tate managed to get a hand down to break his fall and came down with the completion.

The Seahawks running game was in full "Beast Mode" in the second half, when Marshawn Lynch scored three rushing touchdowns.

Getting fullback Michael Robinson back from injury was a blessing for the Seahawks' running game, something that was not lost on head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll congratulated Robinson for blasting a hole up the middle for Marshawn Lynch's touchdown from the one-yard line in the third quarter that capped a 96-yard drive to open the half.

Seattle's defensive captain showed why he is the rock of the Seahawks defense, intercepting a pass by Carolina's Jimmy Clausen and returning it 26-yards for a touchdown in front of the Seahawks sideline to give Seattle a 17-14 lead.

Return specialist Leon Washington races away from the pack on an 84-yard punt return that nearly yielded a touchdown.

Head coach Pete Carroll and special teams coach Brian Schneider get fired up along the sidelines after Washington's big return that set up a touchdown that gave Seattle a 24-14 lead.

On the Seahawks bench, running back Marshawn Lynch talks to Leon Washington after Washington's punt return set up Lynch's second touchdown of the day.

Seattle's defense wasn't the only ones doing the hitting, as offensive tackle Russell Okung leveled Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn after Munnerlyn intercepted a Matt Hasselbeck pass.

Seattle's Raheem Brock celebrates after one of his two sacks on the afternoon.

The traditional postgame prayer shared by players of both teams at midfield was led by Jake Olson, who then attended coach Pete Carroll's post-game speech to the team in the locker room

Head coach Pete Carroll was exhuberant in the locker room after the game, telling them that their inspired play in the second half against Carolina should carry through the final four games of the season as they push for the playoffs.


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Game at a glance

A recap of the Seahawks’ 31-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field:

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

The entire Seahawks team. They lost as a team the previous two weeks, to the tune of 76-43. Today, the Seahawks won as a team.

This game turned during a 10-minute stretch that began with Olindo Mare’s 24-yard field goal on their final play of the first half and ended with Marshawn Lynch’s 1-yard TD run with six minutes to play in the third quarter. In between, the Seahawks drove 96 yards on the opening possession of the second half to another 1-yard run by Lynch, got a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and an 84-yard punt return by Leon Washington to setup Lynch’s second score.

From down 14-0 to up – way up – 24-14.

Say what? Say 161 rushing yards from an offense that had run for 78 yards the past two weeks, and three rushing touchdowns from a team that had four from its running backs in its first 11 games. Say Matt Hasselbeck passing for 229 yards, despite losing leading receiver Mike Williams – again – on their third play of the game and starter Ben Obomanu in the second quarter. Say a defense that yielded 187 yards and two touchdowns on the Panthers’ first four possessions giving up 76 yards and pitching a shutout the rest of the game. Say the Seahawks’ special teams continuing to make special plays.

Say enough is enough.

“The difference between the first half and the second half was so starkly different, it was totally attitude ad getting right,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m so happy that it happened for us so that we can feel what that feels like so that we could regain kind of a sense of what we’re capable of doing.”

As an entire team.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense: Lynch had three touchdown runs for the first time in his four-season NFL career. The first was huge, because it capped that 96-yard drive to open the second half. The last one covered 22 yards, the Seahawks’ longest scoring run of the season.

“Before you guys start,” Lynch told the reporters crowded around his cubicle in the locker room, “I just want to let you know that I had nothing to do with what went on today. It was all my brother (Forsett) and those five guys up front, and those guys that helped us on the outside in the receiver spots.”

Those “five guys up front” would be the offensive line of Russell Okung, Mike Gibson, Chris Spencer, Stacy Andrews and Sean Locklear.

“It has nothing to do with me,” Lynch reiterated. “I just played a small part in what was going on and I want to say big ups to my teammates for getting the running game going. … They did a wonderful job. I’m proud of them.”

And Carroll should be proud of Lynch for leaning so heavily on the first of his three team rules: Always protect the team. Or, in this case, praise it.

Defense: On the third play after the Seahawks’ touchdown to open the second half, Tatupu got a second score by intercepting rookie QB Jimmy Clausen’s pass that was intended for fullback Tony Fiammetta and returning it 26 yards.

“It was kind of like a pick-route, which usually allows the fullback to get over out into the flat – usually by himself or with a man trailing,” Tatupu offered while explaining the second touchdown of his career, and first since his rookie season in 2005.

“I just got over clean enough where I said, ‘If the quarterback throws this ball and I turn around, I’m going. And I’m just going to take my shot.’ And so I did.”

Special teams: Washington’s 84-yard punt return – which should have been an 86-yarder for a score, to hear Washington lament the return in the locker room.

“You know, that was dumb by me,” he said of celebrating the score before it was a score – as punter Jason Baker barely clipped his foot, which caused Washington to trip himself and go down at the 2-yard line. “I am really mad about that – that was selfish by me. Even though we scored, but you can’t do that. You’ve got to finish the play and that was selfish by me.”

Washington shouldn’t be so hard on himself. He should leave that to his mates on the special teams, who will undoubtedly have something to say in the video of the return about Washington getting tripped up by the punter.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Pregame: On the day when Walter Jones’ retired No. 71 was unveiled in the rafter at Qwest Field – next to those of Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent (No. 80) and the fans (No. 12) – Howard Mudd raised the 12th Man Flag in the south end just before kickoff.

Mudd had two stints as the Seahawks’ offensive line coach and coached Jones during his rookie season (1997).

“He’s a great coach, man,” Jones said of Mudd. “He was one of those guys that when I came in here, he said, ‘You’re going to be the guy.’ I think as an offensive lineman, that’s what you need – this is your job to lose, and we’re not going to put anybody else in there. I think that was the approach that he took when I came in, and he was hard on me.

“I remember times when we would go out and practice, and I would have to do one-on-one blocking with every lineman, the entire practice. That stuff that he taught me was something I feel is still in myself now.”

In-game: The unveiling of Jones’ jersey. It came at the two-minute warning in the first half, and the nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle basked in the moment.

“The ref was trying to get the game going, it wasn’t a TV timeout,” Hasselbeck said. “But Walt was talking, which doesn’t happen often. So we all took our time and listened.”

Post-game: The look of satisfaction – and yes, even pride – on Carroll’s face after his team responded so well to start the second half.

“I don’t know, it’s a little bit mystical there,” he said of the abrupt about-face. “I don’t know what it was, other than it just happened.”

WORTH NOTING

The Seahawks pulled themselves back to .500, at 6-6, entering their final four games of the season. They’re still tied for the NFC West lead with the St. Louis Rams, who beat the defending division champion Cardinals today. But the Rams have the tiebreaker because of their win over the Seahawks earlier this season. The Seahawks host the Rams in their Jan. 2 regular-season finale.

Linebacker David Hawthorne led the defense with a game-high 14 tackles – also a season high for Hawthorne, who now has 14-, 13-, 12- and 12-tackle efforts in the past five games.

Defensive end Chris Clemons had one of the Seahawks’ three sacks, giving him a career-high 8½ for the season. Clemons’ also tipped Clausen’s final fourth-down pass incomplete.

The Seahawks’ 161 rushing yards were a season high. Lynch had 83 on 21 carries and Forsett 60 on six carries.

Tight end Cameron Morrah had three receptions for 69 yards, including a 36-yarder – all career highs.

INJURY REPORT

Williams sprained his left ankle, very near where he previously had strained the foot – an injury that forced him to sit out last week’s game.

“Mike turned his ankle – a totally different thing than he went into the game with – and wasn’t able to get right,” Carroll said. “Mike’s got to get back. It’s not a severe ankle, but it was right next to where his foot was injured. So it was kind of compounded there.”

Obomanu got a laceration on his right hand that needed stitches. He said after that game that he will be able to play in next week’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco.

“He didn’t have any broken bones, but he had a really, really nasty laceration there that was more than just a couple of stitches,” Carroll said. “I really don’t know what to tell you about the future of that one.”

Special teams captain Roy Lewis injured a knee in the third quarter and did not return, either.

“His knee’s sore,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t look like a typical knee sprain. He has some soreness in the back of his knee. We don’t know. We’ll have to go check him out.”

The played without tight end John Carlson (hip flexor), left guard Chester Pitts (sprained ankle) and nose tackle Colin Cole (sprained ankle), who were named inactive before the game.

FREE FOR ALL

Because the Seahawks reached several milestone statistics, it means the following free or discounted items for fans:

  • The Seahawks’ three sacks earned everyone in attendance a free Jumbo Jack from Jack in the Box by showing a ticket stub.
  • The Seahawks’ 31 points earns everyone in Seattle free buttermilk pancakes this week with a ticket stub or printable coupon from Seahawks.com.
  • Scoring in red zone earned everyone with a ticket stub a free bag of Oberto Beef Jerky and a Slurpee from 7-Eleven.
  • With four touchdowns and a win, all fans can purchase a large cheese pizza for $9 and receive eight free toppings from Papa John’s on Monday.  No ticket is required.
  • Tatupu’s defensive TD earned everyone at Qwest Field a free haircut at Great Clips.  Show your ticket to get your free cut.

YOU DON’T SAY

“I guarantee the next time I’m in that position I might do a ‘Forrest Gump,’ and run all the way through the stadium.” – Washington, on his punt return


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Fourth quarter

Peephole perspective: The Seahawks got a 22-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch late in the quarter, the icing on this Walter Jones’ number-retirement cake of an afternoon. Seahawks 31-14.

Player of the quarter: Lynch. He had the scoring run and also caught a 17-yard pass on the same drive.

Play of the quarter: Lynch’s TD run late in the quarter. It pushed the Seahawks lead to 31-14 and gave him three TDs in the half, after he had two in his first seven games with the Seahawks.

Number of the quarter: Six. As in the Seahawks’ sixth victory, as they pulled back to .500.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks’ possession that ended the third quarter continued at the start of the fourth quarter, and included Matt Hasselbeck passing to WR Deon Butler for 20 yards to the Panthers’ 29 on a third-and-17 play. Hasselbeck also hit a 17-yarder to WR Brandon Stokley on the drive. But when Hasselbeck missed RB Justin Forsett on a third-down pass, Olindo Mare tried a 47-yard field goal that sailed wide right.

After another three-and-out by the Panthers, the Seahawks drove 78 yards in eight plays to a 22-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch – his third score of the game, and half. Hasselbeck went to WR Deon Butler for 11 yards and Lynch for 17 yards early in the drive, then FB Michael Robinson broke a 15-yard run and Justin Forsett added a 19-yarder.

The Panthers had one last chance, driving to the Seahawks’ 1. But DE Chris Clemons deflected Clausen’s fourth-down pass with 32 seconds left.


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Third quarter

Peephole perspective: Lightning in a bottle for the Seahawks, who scored on a 1-yard run by Marshawn Lynch, a 26-yard interception return by MLB Lofa Tatupu and then got an 84-yard punt return by Leon Washington to set up another 1-yard TD run by Lynch. All in the first nine minutes of the quarter, making it 24-14 Seahawks.

Player of the quarter: Leon Washington. He opened the half by muffing the kickoff return, leaving the Seahawks to drive 96 yards to a TD. But he also had an 84-yard punt return to setup another TD.

Play of the quarter: Following a 96-yard TD drive by the Seahawks to open the half, MLB Lofa Tatupu was covering Panthers’ FB Tony Fiammetta on a third-down play. Tatupu stepped in front of Fiammetta to intercept Jimmy Clausen’s pass and returned it 26 yards for a TD that gave the Seahawks their first lead, 17-14.

Number of the quarter: 21. That’s how many points the Seahawks scored, and the offense, defense and special teams contributed to the onslaught.

The bigger picture: The Seahawks opened the second half with a nine-play, 96-yard drive to a 1-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch, who powered into the end zone over left guard on third down. The big play was a 31-yard run by Justin Forsett to the Panthers’ 19 – and Panthers SS Charles Godfrey was penalized for a horsecollar tackle on the play, giving the Seahawks a first-and-goal from the 9. Matt Hasselbeck also hit a 26-yard pass to TE Cameron Morrah on the drive.

On the Panthers’ ensuing series, MLB Lofa Tatupu picked off Jimmy Clausen’s third-down pass that was intended for FB Tony Fiammetta and returned it 26 yards for the TD. That gave the Seahawks their first lead, 17-14, with 9:18 left in the quarter. It was the second TD of Tatupu’s career, and the first since his rookie season in 2005.

Next up, the Seahawks’ special teams. After the defense forced a punt, Leon Washington returned it 84 yards to the Panthers’ 2. It would have been 6, but P Jason Baker got just enough of one of Washington’s feet with a dive to forced Washington to clip his other foot and go down. But Marshawn Lynch scored from the 1 two plays later to make it 24-14, as the Seahawks scored 14 points in three minutes.

The defense forced another three-and-out, as DE Chris Clemons sacked Clausen on third down. But Hasselbeck’s third pass of the ensuing series was intercepted by CB Captain Munnerlyn. The Seahawks, however, forced another three-and-out, and this time DE Raheem Brock got a sack on third down.


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Second quarter

Peephole perspective: Another TD run by the Panthers, this time from Jonathan Stewart. A late field goal from Olindo Mare. Panthers, 14-3.

Player of the quarter: Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks’ QB did his part to throw the Seahawks back into the game, completing 8 of 13 passes for 118 yards in the quarter. But he had one pass picked off and two other broken up after the Seahawks had reached the Panthers’ 1-yard line.

Play of the quarter: It came during the two-minutes warning, with the retired No. 71 jersey of Walter Jones was uncovered in the rafters of the east grandstands during an emotional ceremony to honor the nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

Number of the quarter: 9. That’s how many tackles LB David Hawthorne has had in the first half.

The bigger picture: The Panthers came out hot again on their first possession of the quarter, with Jonathan Stewart breaking a 14-yard run and Jimmy Clausen passing 39 yards to Steve Smith to the Seahawks’ 26. But the Panther then got one more yard (15) on their next five plays than Stewart got on his drive-opening run. A third-and-7 became a third-and-2 when DE Chris Clemons jumped offside, and Mike Goodson then ran for 2 yards and the first down – at the Seahawks’ 4. Stewart then scored on a 3-yard run to cap the 10-play, 79-yard drive that made it 14-0. Stewart carried seven times for 30 yards – but FB Tony Fiammetta had a 3-yard run on third-and-1 and Goodson added a 2-yarder on third-and-2.

The Seahawks finally got a drive going, moving from their 18 to the Panthers’ 35. But Matt Hasselbeck’s second-and-7 pass was intercepted by SS Charles Godfrey. Before the pick, Hasselbeck had passed to TE Cameron Morrah for 7 yards, WR Ben Obomanu for 13 and WR Golden Tate for 7, and Marshawn Lynch had carried three times for 17 yards.

The defense forced a three-and-out, and Hasselbeck went to Obomanu for 27 yards on the second play – but Godfrey drilled him and Obomanu left the game with an injured right hand. Hasselbeck then passed to Brandon Stokley for 14 yards and third-and-13 and hit Morrah for 36 yards to the Panthers’ 6. But the Seahawks continued to have problems in the red zone, and a false start penalty on TE Chris Baker left them with a second-and-goal from the 6. FS Sherrod Martin broke up the second-down pass to Tate and CB Captain Munnerlyn tipped away the third down pass to Tate in the end zone. Olindo Mare then kicked a 24-yard field goal.


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First quarter

 

Peephole perspective: The Panthers scored on the game-opening drive – only the second time this season they’ve gotten a TD on their first possession. Carolina, 7-0.

Player of the quarter: Mike Goodson. He opened the game with a 40-yard kickoff return and then finished the Panthers’ 61-yard drive with a 6-yard TD run.

Play of the quarter: The TD, as Goodson started off right guard and then cut to his right to get into the end zone.

Number of the quarter: 11:08. The Panthers’ time of possession in the first quarter – compared to 3:52 for the Seahawks. Two numbers that played directly into that: 54 (the Panthers’ rushing yards) and 12 (the Seahawks’ rushing yards).

The bigger picture: The Panthers jumped on top early, as they won the coin toss and took the ball. Mike Goodson popped a 40-yard kickoff return and then capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive by scoring on a 6-yard run. Rookie QB Jimmy Clausen passed for 14 yards to WR Brandon LaFell on third-and-4 and Jonathan Stewart and Goodson then broke 11-yard runs. Stewart carried four times for 19 yards, while Goodson had 17 yards on two carries – the final two of the drive.

It was only the second time this season that the Panthers had scored on their first possession.

After the Seahawks went three-and-out, the Panthers were driving again – moving from their 21 to the Seahawks’ 36. But MLB Lofa Tatupu tipped Clausen’s third-down pass incomplete to force a punt.

The Seahawks also went three-and-out on their second possession, and leading receiver Mike Williams also went out – with a sprained left ankle. Williams missed last week’s game because of a strained left foot. His return is listed as questionable.


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Gamble, Wharton inactive for Panthers

The Panthers will play without cornerback Chris Gamble and left guard Travelle Wharton in today’s game against the Seahawks at Qwest Field. They are among the players named inactive. Gamble has a sore hamstring and Wharton an injured toe.

Captain Munnerlyn will start for Gamble and Mackenzy Bernadeau will step in for Wharton.

Also named inactive for the Panthers:

S Gerald Alexander

LB Abdul Hodge

C Chris Morris

DT Andre Neblett

TE Gary Barnidge

WR David Clowney

3rd QB: Brian St. Pierre


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Carlson, Cole inactive; Williams active

Tight end John Carlson will not play for the Seahawks in today’s game against the Panthers at Qwest Field. Carlson aggravated a hip flexor during practice Wednesday and sat out Thursday and Friday. Chris Baker will start for him.

Also, nose tackle Colin Cole is not ready to return from the sprained ankle that also sidelined him for the past four games. Coach Pete Carroll is hopeful that Cole will be able to play in next week’s game against the 49ers in San Francisco. Junior Siavii will continue to start for Cole.

But leading receiver Mike Williams is active, after sitting out last week’s game because of a strained left foot.

The following players also are inactive for the Seahawks:

OG Chester Pitts (ankle)

DE Clifton Geathers

OT Will Robinson

WR Ruvell Martin

DT Amon Gordon

3rd QB: J.P. Losman


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Williams looks ready

Mike Williams, the Seahawks’ leading receiver, just finished a rigorous workout and appears ready to return for today’s game against the Panthers at Qwest Field.

Williams sat out last week’s loss to the Chiefs with a strained left foot. But during his early pre-game work he was catching passes while doing rapid-fire agility drills with his feet.

Friday, coach Pete Carroll said, “At this point, we’re counting on him to play. We’ve got to get him through the warm-ups and see what happens, and what happens after today’s running around and all that. But if he can run in pregame, then he’ll play.”


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Countdown to kickoff


Greetings for a chilly Qwest Field, where the Seahawks can’t possibly lose to the Carolina Panthers today. Can they?

The bottom-line statistic when it comes to the Panthers is their record: 1-10. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and his players spent the week deflecting questions about how to overlook the Panthers’ record, which includes losing their past five games and also being 0-5 on the road.

“That is exactly what I told them, that’s exactly what I told them – that’s what they’re going to hear; that people are going to look at the record and what’s happened in weeks past and all that,” Carroll said at midweek.

“We’re not playing weeks past. We’re playing them this week. That is all we can focus on.”

But still …

That’s the real problem: Every “but still …” can be trumped by a “yeah, but …”

The Panthers have not won a game on the road this season. Yeah, but the Seahawks have lost their past two games at Qwest by a combined score of 83-31.

The Panthers have lost their past five games. Yeah, but the Seahawks have lost four of their past five.

The Panthers have scored the fewest points (140) in the league this season. Yeah, but they scored 23 in last week’s one-point loss to the Browns in Cleveland to match their single-game high – from their only win.

The Panthers have scored the fewest first-quarter points (22) in the league. Yeah, but the Seahawks have scored 27 – third fewest.

The Panthers offense ranks last in the league, averaging 259.2 yards per game. Yeah, but they can run the ball – as evidenced by their 151-yard effort against the Browns, and the return of Jonathan Stewart after missing two games because of a concussion. Yeah, but – Part II – the Seahawks suddenly can’t stop the run. After allowing an average of 70.4 yards in their first five games, they have surrendered 270 (to the Chiefs), 197 (to the Giants) and 239 (to the Raiders) in their past five games.

The Panthers defense ranks 25th against the run, allowing an average of 130.5 yards per game. Yeah, but the Seahawks have rushed for 20, 58, 49 and 47 yards their most-recent losses. Yeah, but – Part II – the Panthers rank seventh against the pass, allowing an average of 157.8 yards per game. And that is how the Seahawks have had to move the ball recently – through the air, with Matt Hasselbeck passing for 282, 366 and 333 yards in the past three weeks.

The Panthers are starting a rookie QB – Jimmy Clausen, who is 0-5 in his previous starts. Yeah, but Clausen passed for a season-high 195 yards last week. Yeah, but – Part II – the Seahawks have allowed three of the past four QBs they’ve faced to fashion passer ratings of 129.3 (the Chiefs’ Matt Cassel), 106.9 (the Saints’ Drew Brees) and 125.8 (the Giants’ Eli Manning).

The Panthers have committed 29 turnovers, second most in the league. Yeah, but the Seahawks also have fallen victim to what Carroll considers the most important stat in the game. They have 14 of their 19 takeaways in their five wins, and five in their six losses.

But still, the Seahawks can’t lose to the 1-10 Panthers today. Can they?

“I think in years past maybe that’d be something that mattered,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said when asked about how hard it is to not focus on the Panthers’ record. “But I think just the way we’re training our minds right now to just make every single play, every single practice, every single thing that we do, kind of make it a championship game.”

Ah, a championship game. The last time the Panthers played at Qwest was in the 2005 NFC Championship game, and the Seahawks spanked them 34-14 to advance to the franchise’s only Super Bowl. Yeah, but only seven members of that title team will be on the field for the Seahawks today – Hasselbeck, center Chris Spencer, right tackle Sean Locklear, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, cornerback Marcus Trufant, defensive tackle Craig Terrill and defensive back Jordan Babineaux.

We’ll be back shortly, with updates on leading receiver Mike Williams and nose tackle Colin Cole, as well as the lists of inactive players for both team …


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