A recap of the activities on Day 4 of NFC West Championship week:
Charlie Whitehurst. Another day, another full practice for the backup quarterback who is expecting to start Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field that will determine the NFC West champion.
“I’m prepared to play and start,” Whitehurst today said after practice. “You do what the coach says, but I’m ready to start.”
The coach – Pete Carroll – hasn’t had his final say. That’s because starter Matt Hasselbeck continues to insist that he will be ready by Sunday, despite straining two muscles in his hip and buttock in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.
“We’ve got a variety of things we’re working on, trying to speed this thing along right now,” Carroll told reporters in St. Louis during a conference-call interview Wednesday. “Matt is responding, and in his mind there’s nothing that’s going to keep him from playing. But we’re going to have to wait and see.”
Whitehurst can’t wait, and isn’t. He needs all the reps and focus he can muster heading into a possible second NFL start in a game with much bigger – and clearer – ramifications than his first. That was in Week 9, when Hasselbeck was out with a concussion.
Asked if anything has changed in his preparation from Week 9 to Week 17, Whitehurst cracked a slight smile before offering, “Don’t have to answer questions about your first start, you know. That’s the only positive that came out of that game. You know, ‘Well, I’ve started one now.’ So I don’t have to worry about that.
“This is No. 2, if it happens, and just move forward.”
Instead, Whitehurst has to worry about a Rams defense that has produced 43 sacks and 25 turnovers.
“They really get after it,” Whitehurst said. “They play hard and put pressure on you as an offense, so we’re going to have to be on top of it. We’re going to have to be on top of it and try to run it, try to throw it, score points.”
Has offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates had to say anything extra to Whitehurst as he approaches the possibility of starting in such a meaningful game?
“You know, I don’t think you really have to say anything to anybody,” Bates said. “I mean if you have a pulse, you kind of know what this game means.”
Count Whitehurst among those with a pulse.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us. We’re still in it,” he said. “We thought it would come down to the last game, and it has. So we’re ready to go.”
ON THE FIELD
The players worked for 85 minutes in the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on “Turnover Thursday,” their final full session before Sunday’s game.
During the warm-up drills for other players, Hasselbeck made a few throws on the side and also simulated a couple of drops to test his hip.
For a peek at practice, check out Rod Mar’s photo gallery.
The Rams’ last playoff victory? It was following the 2004 season – Jan. 8, 2005, to be exact. It happened at Qwest Field, as the Rams escaped with a 27-20 victory in the Seahawks’ first playoff game since 1999 as Bobby Engram couldn’t hold Hasselbeck’s pass in the end zone on the final play.
Since then, the Rams have gone 6-10, 8-8, 3-13, 2-14 and 1-15. That’s why this season’s 7-8 record and opportunity to play for the division title on Sunday means so much to the players who have suffered through the team’s playoff – and victory – drought.
“I’ve had to endure more than just the 1-15 season,” Rams running back Steven Jackson said this week. “Over the last three years, before this year, I’ve only won six games in I think 48 contests. So when I’m saying shell-shocked, I’m talking about a body of a career that I’ve never had a chance to be better than 8-8.
“You look about the league and see your peers, guys you were drafted with, play in Super Bowls and achieve a lot of things. You kind of what that. This is what we all play for. We don’t play an individual sport. We play the greatest team sport there is, and to not be able to have a highlight in my career, they were some down times. But it feels good. It feels good to go into this Week 17 game and have everything on the line.”
The official report, as released by the team:
Did not practice
QB Matt Hasselbeck (hip)
WR Brandon Stokley (head)
K Olindo Mare (back)
MLB Lofa Tatupu (knee)
Tatupu and Mare were back after sitting out Wednesday, leaving Hasselbeck and Stokley as the only players whose status is in doubt for Sunday’s game.
For the Rams:
TE Mike Hoomanawanui (ankle)
CB Jerome Murphy (finger)
Murphy had been limited Wednesday after fracturing a finger in last week’s game, while Hoomanawanui was able to participate in some drills after sitting out Wednesday.
STAT DU JOUR
Jackson, the Rams’ first-round draft choice in 2004 out of Oregon State, has averaged a league-best 118.7 yards rushing and receiving since 2006. This season, he has 1,196 rushing yards and 334 yards on 42 receptions.
YOU DON’T SAY
“We might be calling for a ‘laying of the hands’ here if other things don’t work. I’ve got some old friends down in the Bay Area that I can call in.” – Carroll, joking with reporters in St. Louis during his conference-call interview when asked about Hasselbeck