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Ready, when needed
When it comes to backup quarterbacks in the NFL, there is a protocol to discussing their performances when they step in for an injured starter.
Like Charlie Whitehurst.
When Tarvaris Jackson was knocked out of the Seahawks’ pre-bye week game against the New York Giants in the third quarter with a strained pectoral in his throwing shoulder, the game suddenly was in Whitehurst’s hands.
Despite not practicing the no-huddle offense that has served the Seahawks so well in their past three games since training camp, Whitehurst completed 11 of 19 passes for 149 yards – including a 4-of-5, 77-yard effort on the seven-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with his 27-yard touchdown pass to rookie Doug Baldwin for what proved to be the game-winner in the 36-25 upset victory.
Impressive? You bet. Worthy of over-the-top praise from his coaches and a look-what-I-did attitude from Whitehurst? You’d lose that bet.
“That’s what we expect of him,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He got a lot of reps during training camp and we still work him in there. We do mental reps with him in the film room. He’s taking them all in the back (during practice while Jackson is running the offense).
“So he just did a nice job of handling himself.”
Nice job? That’s it.
What about Whitehurst? He had to be very pleased with himself.
“You see the starting quarterback go down and he’s hurt, there’s really no time to (get nervous),” Whitehurst said. “You just kind of think, ‘OK, here we go.’ You grab your helmet and go. It’s easier to approach it that way. Just be ready. And if you go in there, you go in there.”
Just go in there? Just doing his job? Someone has to have a little extra appreciation for what Whitehurst was able to accomplish to help the Seahawks pull off a big – and needed – upset of the Giants.
How about Michael Robinson? The Seahawks fullback was a quarterback at Penn State. Surely he can slap some wow into what Whitehurst did.
“Hell yeah, it was impressive,” Robinson said on Thursday, as the Seahawks continued to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Browns in Cleveland. “It’s hard to do, man.”
From a nearby cubicle in the locker room, running back Justin Forsett nodded in agreement and offered, “Really impressive.”
OK. Now we’re getting somewhere.
“You can know the procedure, you can know the plays,” Robinson said. “But it’s a feel. When you get in that type of (no-huddle) offense and things start going crazy, you go to what you feel comfortable with. You go to the plays you feel comfortable with.”
And the players, as well. On that drive to the fourth-quarter touchdown, Whitehurst went to Baldwin for 22 yards on the first play; for 8 yards on third-and-7; and the final 27 on the scoring play.
And it wasn’t as easy as Whitehurst made it look.
“If you’re not out there a lot, it’s hard to get a feel for what you’re comfortable with,” Robinson said. “And Charlie did a great job, man. It was very impressive.
“But that’s a tribute to his attention to detail and how much he pays attention during the week. The guy is always on it. He’s always making his calls. When T-Jack is doing his thing in practice, Charlie’s back there making his calls, doing his thing, acting like he’s the guy running the offense. So Charlie practices every day like he’s the guy.”
This week, as well as during the team’s two bye-week practices, Whitehurst has been the guy. Jackson has made some handoffs on running plays and even thrown in individual drills. But the starter’s reps have gone to Whitehurst, for the first time this season.
Just after Friday’s practice, and just before the team left for Cleveland, coach Pete Carroll listed Jackson as doubtful, but said the final decision on who starts won’t be made until Sunday.
Whitehurst, however, has been prepared to be the starter.
“Charlie has had a good week,” Carroll said. “He’s ready to go.”
Whitehurst started two games last season when then-QB Matt Hasselbeck was injured. There was a less-than-impressive showing in the team’s even-less-impressive 41-7 Week 8 loss to the Giants in Seattle, when Whitehurst was 12 of 23 for 113 yards with one TD and two interceptions. There was his 22-of-36, 192-yard, one-TD performance in the regular-season finale victory over the St. Louis Rams that gave the Seahawks the NFC West title – but the defense and running game had more to do with that 16-6 victory than the QB.
All of which makes what Whitehurst was able to do against the Giants the best outing of his six-year NFL career, and provides confidence that there’s more to come – if needed.
“The physical stuff we’re asking him to do he’s run 100 times,” Carroll said. “It’s the rhythm of it and I’m anxious to see how he does with this preparation behind him. I think he’s going to handle it very well.”
It is, after all, what’s expected of Whitehurst, and what he expects from himself.