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Ability to take a deep breath without pain? Check.
Ability to run without pain? Check.
Ability to throw a pass without pain? Check.
Matt Hasselbeck had to cross several checkpoints just to get back on the Seahawks’ practice field. Wednesday, the team’s three-time Pro Bowl quarterback took the next needed step toward playing for the first time since having a rib fractured in the Week 2 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco.
No one can say whether Hasselbeck will be able to do that Sunday, when the 1-3 Seahawks face a must-win game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qwest Field. But his body language did not betray him during his first practice in 2½ weeks.
Hasselbeck took snaps with the No. 1 offense. He handed off. He threw passes. He twisted his torso while doing both. He did not display any obvious signs of discomfort, let alone pain.
Afterwards, Hasselbeck gave himself a passing grade – at least in pain tolerance.
“Right now? I’m OK, not bad,” he said. “The last week, I’ve had some good days of recovery. I probably had one big setback day.”
That would be Monday. Two hours after telling reporters in his news conference that Hasselbeck was going to be able to practice Wednesday, coach Jim Mora went into the locker room to find his QB “in excruciating pain,” as Mora put it.
“I thought, ‘Oh, goodness sakes,’ ” Mora said. “And he’s down, and he’s like, ‘It’s not going good. It was a bad day.’ And I said, ‘Well, hang in there. Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel better.’ ”
The sun did come up the next day, and a much more comfortable Hasselbeck was there to greet it – with the help of “a couple high-potency aspirin,” as Mora put it.
“I probably just tried to push it too much that day,” Hasselbeck said of his painful Monday. “So things have been progressing nicely. I’ve been getting great treatment and I’ve been doing literally everything that there is to do. So I’ve been pleased with how it’s been going.”
If nothing else, Hasselbeck has earned even more admiration from his coach.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, but it keeps growing,” Mora said. “The guy is without question doing everything possible to get out on the football field.
“That’s what you’d expect from him. But to see him every day, the kinds of ups and downs and pushing through the injury and his willingness to really do what it takes at any level to get out on the field, has really garnered a lot of respect around here.”
Factoring into the play him/don’t play him scenario this week are a couple of factors that go beyond Hasselbeck’s ailing rib, and his pushing to play: The team being 1-3 and needing a win Sunday if it is to reach its goal of being .500 by its bye week; and yet another shuffle on the offensive line, with Mansfield Wrotto taking over at left guard for an injured Rob Sims and lining up next to Brandon Frye, the third option at left tackle.
Here’s Mora’s take on each element:
The player: “Being tough is not enough,” Mora said “We just have to see where he is at the end of the week. You know, time will tell. By the time we get to Saturday, I would think we’d have a pretty good idea. So, whichever way we go, we’ll roll.”
The record: “I don’t get that sense,” Mora said. “I think he just wants to win, help us win. When we lost to San Francisco, Matt came in on Tuesday and said, ‘I’m going to ready this week. I’m going to play this week.’ That’s been his mindset the whole time. So I don’t believe it’s driven by the fact that we’re struggling. I think it’s driven by the fact that he wants to get on the field and compete and help us win.”
The line: “Well, you could tie the two together, but I have confidence that those guys that are going to play are going to play well,” Mora said.
Hasselbeck passed a big test in his own mind Wednesday just by being able to throw the ball.
“Last week I could throw the ball OK. Yesterday, it was really tough. Monday, not possible,” he said. “So it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to be able to throw it, and you’ve got to be able to throw it well – and there’s a difference here between a practice throw and a game throw; there’s a difference between playing catch and a competitive NFL throw. I’ve got to be able to do those things.”
Hasselbeck might have lost time due to his rib injury, but he has not lost his trademark sense of humor.
Asked if he planned to wear extra protection if he does play this week, he offered, “Well, I was wearing rib pads when I got hurt. So those are going in the trash. I’m going with a new company. It’s down to two. Maybe (I’ll get an endorsement deal). Call me.”
Asked if he knew what kind of day he would have by how he feels when he wakes up, he said, “No. It’s a constant thing. You ever broken your ribs? I can tell. I can tell who has by the way they treat me.”
But what Hasselbeck and his team are going through is not a laughing matter. There is a feeling that with all the injuries to so many starters the season is slipping away. It’s a situation that would be helped greatly by getting Hasselbeck back on the field – sore rib, and all.
“I don’t know. I want to be fair to the team,” Hasselbeck said when the subject turned to whether he expected to play this week.
“Right now, what my job is is just to give the coaching staff and my teammates everything I’ve got. At the same time, be fair to Seneca (Wallace, his backup), and then let the coaching staff make a decision based on what the film looks like. … I’m just going to do my part and see what happens. It’s early in the week. So that’s a good thing.”
Almost as good as the possibility of getting your starting QB back heading into a crucial two-game home stand.