Breathless by the Bay

Posted Sep 21, 2009

Matt Hasselbeck had a rib fractured in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, but his first priority was just catching his breath.


As Matt Hasselbeck started toward the Seahawks sideline at Candlestick Park on Sunday, a fractured rib was not his most pressing concern.

Wobbly and red-faced, the Seahawks quarterback was just trying to catch his breath.

“When I got hit, I got the wind knocked out of me and I couldn’t breathe,” Hasselbeck said Monday. “I knew immediately I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to get off the field.”

Hasselbeck also was trying to get backup Seneca Wallace on the field, without forcing the Seahawks to burn their final timeout of the first half.

“I was getting lightheaded, dizzy, my face was red – purple maybe,” he said. “That was really the issue.”

It was later that the issue became the fractured rib.

Hasselbeck talked with reporters in the locker room, after coach Jim Mora had announced at his weekly news conference that his quarterback’s scramble and lunge toward the goal line had left Hasselbeck with the fractured rib – complements of 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis ramming into his back.

After finally catching his breath, Hasselbeck had X-rays and then was taken by ambulance to Stanford for a CT scan, which revealed the fractured rib that leaves Hasselbeck’s status in limbo for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears at Qwest Field.

“I’m absolutely hoping to play,” Hasselbeck said. “Absolutely.”

Hasselbeck has played with a fractured rib before – while with the Seahawks and, yes, the week after getting the injury.

“I definitely have felt worse,” he said, comparing this Monday to others in his career. “What I have is a painful injury. But I definitely have woken up on a Monday feeling worse. I don’t feel that bad, and that’s very encouraging.”

Mora, however, was not ready to commit to Hasselbeck as his starter this week. He’ll wait to see how the injury is as the week progresses.

“He seems to be doing a lot better today, certainly, than he was yesterday,” Mora said. “So we’ll take it day by day. He’s a tough guy. We’ll see where he is as we go through this week.”

The immediate concern, of course, was that Hasselbeck had reinjured his back. He missed nine starts last season because of a bulging disc.

“Every time Matt gets hit, everyone thinks, ‘Oh no, his back,’ ” Mora said. “But I knew right away it wasn’t his back. I thought it was his head, the way that he came over as he walked off the field, and then just kind of crumbled. I thought, ‘Oh, it’s his head.’ But as soon as (the trainers) laid him down, you could see that he was lucid. It was just that he was in a lot of pain and he was struggling to catch his breath.”

The play, and result of the play, also prompted questions about whether Hasselbeck should even be doing such things.

“I’ve been asked a couple times yesterday and then this morning, ‘Can’t you tell him not to do that?’ ” Mora said with a laugh. “It’s hard to tell a competitor not to do that. As a matter of fact, I think it’s impossible to tell a competitor not to do that.

“I don’t know what else he’s supposed to do. He’s trying to help his team win the game, and we’re in a tight game. We’ve got a chance to score a touchdown to get ourselves really back into the game a little bit, and I don’t know what other choice he has rather than just take a knee. That’s not going to work. It’s not going to work for Matt, I can tell you that.”

Hasselbeck was supposed to throw a pass to either tight end John Carlson or wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the play. But when they were covered, his instincts took over. Hasselbeck scrambled and then made the dive to the goal line.

“There was a crease,” he said. “I thought maybe I could get in.”

Instead, Hasselbeck had to come out.

“It was a painful injury,” he said. “I never had to go to the hospital during a game before, so that was a little different. But that was just a cautious thing.”

Was it a scary experience? “It probably should have been,” he said. “But it wasn’t.”

After the tests at the hospital, Hasselbeck rejoined the team in time to fly back to Seattle.

Now, the obvious question remains: Will he be able to rejoin the starting lineup Sunday? The motivation to do that is just as obvious to Hasselbeck.

“With the amount of guys that we have banged up, I think that’s just an important part of any football team – is guys to realize the difference between pain and injury and just give the team everything you’ve got,” Hasselbeck said. “Then, put it in the hands of the coaches to decide who gives us our best chance to win this week.”