With the pressure on once again, the Seahawks quarterback slide to his right and then back to his left. After a pump fake to his right, Hasselbeck lofted a pass to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was streaking up the sideline.
Seeing that all his receivers were covered in a red-zone drill, Hasselbeck broke from the pocket, eluding one defender and then beating another to the corner of the end zone.
These snapshots from the team’s spring minicamps provide a pretty good picture of just how Hasselbeck has recovered from the back problem that forced him to miss nine games last season.
What’s been missing this spring have been the twists and torques of his upper body that had become part of Hasselbeck’s pre-snap routine last season.
To put it another way, if you didn’t know a bulging disk had plagued him last season, you wouldn’t know.
Hasselbeck is back, and his rehab and recovery are cornerstone reasons for the optimistic outlook as the Seahawks try to, well, bounce back from last year’s 4-12 season.
“I felt fine before Christmas, maybe,” Hasselbeck said when faced with the obvious question. “Maybe after. I don’t know. I’d be guessing. But a long time ago. I was close (at the end of last season).”
That was his assessment in April. Hasselbeck looked so good during the spring that the subject of his troublesome back was not even addressed in his later interview sessions during the May and June minicamps.
To a point, of course, because no one will really know just how much his back has improved until he takes that first hit during the preseason. Remember, it was just such a shot in the preseason opener against the Vikings last August that began the unraveling of the season – for Hasselbeck and the team.
“I’m always concerned about every player,” coach Jim Mora said. “But no more so with Matt than any other player.
“But, sure, it creeps into the back of your mind on occasion because he missed a lot of games last year. Any time a guy is coming off that it creeps into your mind. But I think through the course of training camp and the preseason that that will go away.”
|Seahawks 2009 Quarterbacks|
A look at the unit as the team takes a break before the start of training camp practices on July 31:
The word: With Hasselbeck’s back a non-factor all spring, things are back to status quo here. He is the starter, with Wallace the backup and Teel and Rowe vying for the No. 3 spot that was filled the past two seasons by since-departed Charlie Frye. So the hand wringing over using Wallace’s impressive athletic ability as a receiver now can shift to thoughts of how electrifying he could be running the Wild Cat offense – if coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp decide to toy with the latest trend in the league. One more thing to ponder in 2009: Hasselbeck has three 16-start seasons with the Seahawks, and they have come in the odd-numbered years (2003, 2005 and 2007).
Hasselbeck worked hard to get himself right. With the team’s doctors. With the team’s training staff. With a personal trainer in Vancouver, B.C. – the same one used by NBA star Steve Nash. On his own.
Hasselbeck says all the work has left him, at almost 34 and entering his ninth season with the Seahawks, in the best shape of his career. The core of his body is stronger and more flexible. He is invigorated by working with a new offensive coordinator (Greg Knapp) and a new system that not only plays to his strengths but is counting on them to put the big play back in the passing game and even make the running game more effective.
That’s why the Seahawks did not go after another quarterback in free agency, and waited until the sixth round of the draft to address the position by selecting Rutgers’ Mike Teel – when many felt taking USC’s Mark Sanchez with the fourth pick overall was a must.
Asked his initial assessment of Hasselbeck when he arrived, Knapp offered a one-word answer: “Sold.”
Then he elaborated, “Matt is one of those guys that you feel very lucky to be able to coach. Very privileged to. His performance, his production in this business. The way he has handled pressure situations at this level. He has done outstanding. He is one of those quarterbacks who makes good decisions, throws on time and is accurate.
“That’s what you look for in a quarterback – decision-making, timing, accuracy.”
Just in case, Seneca Wallace is still around, and showed in his two four-game stints as the starter last season that he not only can play in this league, but also win.
In the preferred scenario, however, Wallace’s playing time this season will be very limited. Because Hasselbeck is back.
“You’ve seen him,” Mora said. “He does everything. There’s not one indication that there is – or was – an issue.”
Which is the way it needs to remain, and why Hasselbeck plans to spend a lot of his “vacation” time at the team’s facility.
“For me, it’s the most important time,” he said of the break between the final minicamp practice and the first training camp practice. “Similar to a pitcher, you get your arm ready for competitive throws, two practices in one day, those kinds of things.
“That’s when you really sharpen your skills. And you know you’re coming back to camp, there’s a conditioning test, a body-fat percentage test, a weigh-in. All that stuff’s coming. It’s time to go at that point.”
A 65-word assessment, and not one mention of his back. That’s definitely something that needs to continue as the team moves forward.