Wednesday in Hawkville

A recap of the day’s activities:

FOCUS ON

Deion Branch. The former Super Bowl MVP is a wide receiver. Like most – all? – players at his position, Branch wants to play more, and when he is playing he wants the ball to come his direction more.

So why wasn’t he smiling today after coach Jim Mora announced that Branch will step in at split end for an injured Nate Burleson in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Qwest Field?

“It’s good and bad,” Branch said after practice. “Nate, that’s my teammate and probably my best friend on the team. We’re always together. We’re always doing everything together. So to see my guy down, that’s tough.”

Burleson got a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston while returning a punt. Mora said that Burleson is out for this week, but that he’ll wait to determine what to do with Burleson for the rest of the season.

So it’s Branch at split end, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh staying at flanker. Houshmandzadeh leads the team with 65 receptions, while Burleson is second with 63. Branch is fifth with 32 catches.

“Yeah, there’s more balls for me. But am I happy about it? No,” Branch said. “I’d rather have my guy on the field playing than for me to be receiving more catches because he’s hurt. It’s weird.”

With Branch starting at split end, rookie Deon Butler becomes the No. 3 receiver and Ben Obomanu steps up to the No. 4 spot.

POSITION WATCH

Center. Rookie Max Unger is in and veteran Chris Spencer is not out, but over – to the right guard spot that Unger was playing.

Mora promised changes on the offensive line after Sunday’s loss and again on Monday. The flop of Unger and Spencer is what the coaches decided to do. Mora also said that Mike Gibson will split time with Spencer against the Bucs.

Spencer, a first-round draft choice in 2005, has been snapping with his left hand the past five games after fracturing the thumb on his right hand in practice. The situation was not ideal, but had not been a problem until Sunday – when there were three botched exchanges with QB Matt Hasselbeck.

“The No. 1 issue that we’ve had is quarterback-center exchange,” offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. “We’ve survived a couple of weeks. But last week, with three of them, we had to make a move to help that out. So that’s the main thrust: We need to improve the continuity of first step of the play. That’s the snap.”

Unger, this year’s second-round draft choice, played center the past two seasons at Oregon. He also got some second-unit snaps in the preseason games this summer, but then started the first 13 games at right guard.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by the team:

OUT

WR Nate Burleson (ankle)

LIMITED IN PRACTICE

LB Aaron Curry (hip)

FULL PARTICIPATION

LB D.D. Lewis (knee)

Something missing? Yes, QB Matt Hasselbeck. He is not on the report because he participated in every phase of practice, despite aggravating a shoulder injury and also hurting a thumb while being sacked three times and hit six other times against the Texans.

For the Bucs, three players did not practice: WR Michael Clayton (knee), TE John Gilmore (head) and RB Carnell Williams (not injury related). TE Kellen Winslow (knee), the team’s leading receiver, was limited.

BACK TO SEATTLE

Josh Freeman is a rookie quarterback, but he won’t be making his first visit to Seattle when the Buccaneers come to town for Sunday’s game.

Asked about the crowd noise during a telephone interview today, Freeman said, “Oh yeah, the (fans). I actually took a visit before the draft to Seattle and I heard all about it. I got to see your guys’ facility. It’s really nice out there. But everybody talks about the loudest outdoor – if not the loudest – stadium in the NFL.”

Did Freeman get the impression that the Seahawks were interested in drafting him?

“You know, you never know,” he said. “I can’t tell you. None of those coaches are really trying to tip their hand. You could have one guy saying, ‘Hey man, we love you. If we get a chance to get you, we’re going to get you.’ And really, they want to get someone else, and they’re hoping that somebody else hears that and tries to grab you. You never really know.

“I definitely had a good time. I felt good vibes from the coaches. But obviously you guys have a starting quarterback and with the fourth pick it’s not really somewhere you’re necessarily going to draft a quarterback when you’ve got a guy like Matt Hasselbeck.”

YOU DON’T SAY

“Consistency. I want to see him take a right (defensive) end and keep him away from our quarterback for the entire game. That’s what I want to see. I want to see him, when we run the football, knock someone on their (rear end). When we run the football away, I want to see him cut somebody down. That’s what I want to see. I want to see some nastiness.” – Mora, when asked what he wanted to see from left tackle Sean Locklear in the remaining three games


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