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An uncertain situation
Matt Hasselbeck is determined to play in Sunday night’s regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams that will determine the NFC West championship.
But because of the uncertainty of his status after the Seahawks’ starting quarterback strained his left hip against the Buccaneers in Tampa, coach Pete Carroll says the team will prepare this week as if backup Charlie Whitehurst will be the QB in the nationally televised game from Qwest Field.
“I’m trying to make it as if there is no uncertainty at this point,” Carroll said Monday during his weekly day-after press conference. “We’re going with Charlie because we know he’s ready to go and he’ll be able to have a great week, practice every snap and go full speed and all that.”
In the next breath, however, Carroll added, “Matt is absolutely determined to be playing in this game. He’s already stated, ‘I’m going to be there. I’ll be ready for us.’
“If we knew this injury differently, we might be able to predict it. It’s just a very unusual spot that Matt sustained the strain. We just don’t know how to predict what’s going to happen. So with that uncertainty, we’re moving ahead without uncertainty.”
That’s why, for now, it’s Whitehurst. But that decision is subject to change.
“That’s why we’re doing this – because I know we can count on that,” Carroll said. “Then we’ll see what happens with Matt later on and where he fits in.”
Carroll said last week that Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks their best chance to win – a statement that accompanied his decision to stick with the veteran starter for the game against the Bucs after Hasselbeck had been replaced in the third quarter of the previous week’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field. Later in the week, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates labeled Hasselbeck “our best player on offense,” adding, “He’s going to take us as far as we can go.”
That lasted only 14 plays against the Bucs, however, as Hasselbeck was injured while scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run.
“It’s not my back,” Hasselbeck said after the game, when asked if this injury was related to the back problems that plagued him during the 2008 season. “It’s embarrassing, but it’s more my butt. There you go.”
Hasselbeck also said he first hurt the area when took a helmet to the hip in the Week 3 game against San Diego Chargers and then aggravated it against the Arizona Cardinals (Week 10) and Carolina Panthers (Week 13).
“But it was really never that bad,” he said.
Sunday it was, as Hasselbeck went down in the end zone after scoring. He was on the field for a while before walking to the sideline.
“It was before I scored, but it was on that play,” he said. “I had a play-action to the left and I tried to come around real quick and that’s kind of how I hurt it. That’s how I hurt it in Arizona and it was that same mechanism. It was better. My strength was OK. I could move. But it wasn’t all the way better.”
Hasselbeck had a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) Monday, as well as other tests.
“It’s something that’s maybe manageable. It may be,” Carroll said. “The MRI results were not such that he doesn’t have a chance. They were very hopeful that he has an opportunity to get back. But we won’t know for days. So it’s kind of a difficult situation for us because we don’t know and we’re not sure what’s going to happen until we find out the news probably by Friday, Saturday and maybe all the way to game time.”
Would Carroll be comfortable playing Hasselbeck on Sunday night if he was unable to practice all week?
“A quarterback in his situation could get by with the walk-thrus and things like that, and have a real good chance to have the game plan in command,” Carroll said. “I don’t have any problem with that.
“But it’s just not knowing. I want to make sure as we proceed through the week, and we know what we’re doing and what can do. If Matt can play a factor in that then we’ll figure that out when the time comes.”
Carroll said there are “two different little areas” that are in question – the hip, as well as the glute.
“He’s not in a lot of discomfort, but when he has to turn and move and stride and all that kind of stuff, that’s where it enters in,” Carroll said.
Hasselbeck completed three of four passes for 24 yards in the drive that led to his TD run, and injury. That gave him 3,001 passing yards for the season – the seventh time in his career that he has surpassed 3,000, a club record.
Whitehurst, meanwhile, completed 11 of 18 passes for 66 yards and engineered a TD drive in the fourth quarter after taking over for Hasselbeck on Sunday. In his only start this season – and of his five-year NFL career – completed 12 of 23 passes for 113 yards with one TD and two interceptions in a 41-7 loss to the New York Giants at Qwest Field.
But he does not have Hasselbeck’s experience or command of the offense.
Asked what the video review showed of Whitehurst’s performance, Carroll said, “That he started slowly. Not many things happened. In talking with Charlie, too, he didn’t feel like he took advantage of a couple of opportunities that were out there and kind of made some conservative decisions.
“As the game went on, he did better and felt more comfortable. But just not much happened for us and we just didn’t get many things done.”
That can’t be the case this Sunday, regardless of who is playing quarterback.