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The plan all week has been that Matt Hasselbeck would start Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field, if he was healthy.
But before announcing that, coach Pete Carroll had to make sure Hasselbeck was healthy enough after sitting out Sunday night’s division-clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams because of the strained muscles he got in his left hip and buttock the previous week in the loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.
“Matt had a great week for us, made it through the week,” Carroll said Thursday, after Hasselbeck had taken most of the snaps in the team’s 45-minute walk-thru. “I told him Monday he was going to start if he could make it through physically. He’s done all of that, so Matt Hasselbeck is going to start the game for us at quarterback.
“I’m fired up that Matt’s going to go. I know he’s ready. He’s known it all week in prep, but I needed to insure that (he was physically ready). Really, after Wednesday’s practice and seeing the film it was clear that that’s the way we’re going to go.”
As well as backup Charlie Whitehurst played in the 16-6 win over the Rams – which was very well – Hasselbeck’s experience in the playoffs and also against Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is difficult to overlook.
“Matt has been our starter all year long, and that’s it,” Carroll said. “Nothing has changed from that. I just wanted to make sure that Matt was healthy. Last week, he did everything he could (to play). He was a warrior about it. He would have gone if we would have called upon him. But it was better that we didn’t have to do that.”
Now, it’s better that Hasselbeck is ready to return.
Hasselbeck has started nine playoff games and is the franchise postseason leader in passing attempts (325), completions (189), passing yards (2,211), touchdown passes (11) and wins (four). His start against the Saints will tie the franchise record held by former Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones.
Williams is one of the more innovative and aggressive coordinators in the league, so Hasselbeck’s experience from his 10 seasons as the Seahawks’ starter should help him deal with the unexpected – which everyone is expecting from Williams at Qwest Field.
“Matt did play very well last time, as far as throwing the ball,” Carroll said of Hasselbeck’s season-high 366-yard passing effort in the Week 11 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. “Because that was last time doesn’t mean it’s going to be this time.
“But the fact that he’s been through so much, his experience in this situation is an advantage we have to call on.”
Hasselbeck is grateful to be getting the call. He wanted to play against the Rams, badly. But he understood the decision to go with Whitehurst, whose mobility proved to be crucial in avoiding the pressure the Rams were able to generate.
“I really was just unsure about my health, and I was very unsure about that,” said Hasselbeck, who also has been playing with a protective device on the left wrist that he broke in the Week 10 win over the Cardinals in Arizona. “Everyone was asking, and I just wasn’t sure – hadn’t really had anything like it.
“So that was the big question mark. I just did what I could. I just tried to work hard, ice a lot and all that stuff. I feel good. I feel like I’m getting better.”
A lot was made of Carroll delaying the ultimate decision until Thursday – too much. There was no intent to deceive. No cloaks. No daggers. No behind-the-scenes trickery or split decisions on the decision.
“This was not a decision that had much weighing on it, other than Matt’s health,” Carroll said.