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Burleson and Taylor Look to Anchor Receiving Corp

With Deion Branch and Bobby Engram out with injuries, Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor are looking to anchor the Seahawks receiving corp.

For lack of a better phrase, they're on.

Every player that's ever made it to the NFL has claimed all they're looking for is an opportunity to prove their ability, and there's no doubt a slew of young receivers will get that chance on the Seattle Seahawks.

With Deion Branch still recovering from ACL surgery on his left knee, it was revealed Monday that veteran Doug Baldwin will be out 6-8 weeks after cracking his right shoulder on the first play from scrimmage in Friday's win at Minnesota against the Vikings.

That leaves Nate Burleson as the old guy starting at split end - all 26 years of him - with coach Mike Holmgren saying Courtney Taylor, 24, has the inside track at the flanker spot with his peers Ben Obomanu, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent breathing down his neck. And that's not to mention the big strides made by the 22-year-old rookie free agent, Michael Bumpus.

When asked if he'd ever been with such a young crew, Holmgren looked up and said, "Uh, no. So we'll see. I like 'em though." And then he turned whimsical for a moment and added, '"Of course, we're turning into a running team now, so I don't have to worry quite as much - 'Woody (Hayes) Holmgren.'"

As much as it was said primarily in jest, along with a compliment to the improved running game, this will be an interesting test Burleson as the veteran leader and Taylor, overcoming a hamstring problem from early in camp, as the youngster proving he belongs as a starter in the NFL.

"I would say probably now that Courtney is healthy again, he was the guy we kind of targeted for that spot - at least initially," Holmgren said. "But, heck, Michael Bumpus is making a nice run. Logan, Jordan Kent ...Ben Obomanu - we'll let 'em play and see how it sorts itself out. Courtney's a pretty explosive guy. He's got great skill level. He's fast. His athletic ability is special."

As wired as Taylor tends to be in conversation, he started off low key ... then essentially worked himself into a frenzy of excitement. First of all, he'll miss Engram being there - his friend, mentor and savior all rolled into one. More than anything, it blew him away that Engram actually had the injury on the first play of the game, stayed in and caught another pass before coming out.

"I didn't find out until the next day," Taylor said. "He said it, and I'm like, 'Oh, wow, when did that happen?' But he's a tough guy and he kept playing. He kept playing with it and caught another pass! The guy's unbelievable. He looked me in the face and said, 'Don't worry, I'm going to be back quick. But I'm going to be on you young guys

"It hurts a lot - that's like the ambassador of our group. He's the guy that stands up for us when coach is getting on us. He's like, 'Hey coach, I got it.' We don't have that now. It's kind of like 'Aaaahhhh, where's Bobby?' He already told us he's going to be back soon as possible, so that's one thing that motivates us. He's still kind of like our coach."

But on the field, Burleson now has the responsibility as the elder statesman.

"I feel like a truly old vet on the team," Burleson said. "Practice is going good. These young guys are flying around and it makes easier on my legs - these guys are coming along at a fast pace. It's tough (without Engram), but I don't know the depth of his injury. I just hope he'll be back sooner than later. I know Bobby's a resilient individual, so I'm not too concerned because I know he'll be back."

They both know this is their chance to make the system work for them. With the knowledge, consistency and success quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has had running this offense, it's just a matter of knowing where you're supposed to be at all times. The Holmgren system and quarterbacks have made many a wide receiver grow in stature, particularly at flanker.

And it wasn't as if Taylor was dodging Holmgren's comments either.

"That's one thing about the flanker, those guys get to make big plays, and I love to consider myself a big play guy - I get the opportunity now," Taylor said. "(Holmgren is) the 'Big Show,' and when you get that kind of pressure on you - it's like 'Oh wow, it's kind of pressure,' but I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. That's all I can do, just come out and get better and work on my game. That's the one thing I want to do. That's one thing all of us receivers set out to do every day - let's go out and get better.

"I don't think it's a life and death situation, but it means me doing everything correctly. As long as I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and the coaches see that I'm doing things correctly, that's all I can ask for. I think I'm doing pretty good. I've got to stay in the book though, I've got to keep my head buried in it, but I think I'm doing pretty good."

And he'll have plenty of opportunity to prove it.


Nate Burleson on whether he'll lobby to continue returning kicks despite the obvious need for him to take more reps at wide receiver:

"I would love to juggle being a returner and a receiver. Hopefully if I am playing more receiver it will be a situational thing. The adrenaline of being a returner is unbelievable, so I don't want to relinquish that to anybody. I don't want to pass that rush on to nobody. I love it man. It's like no other. It's the unexpected of being back there, and that's what I appreciate about that certain time of the game. So hopefully, you'll see me back there. I'm open and willing to do anything. My view about being a Seahawk has not changed since I've been here. Whatever coach wants from me, I'll do it."

This and that

In case you were wondering, Engram was ineligible for the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP) because he passed his physical coming into camp and it has to be a pre-existing injury. Branch could be placed on the list after the final cut, but he'd have to miss the first six regular season games and he is expected to be back before then. . ... With the release of Marcus Tubbs, Matt Castelo and Derrick Johnson Monday, the Seahawks signed linebacker Dallas Sartz, a former fifth-round pick of the Washington Redskins out of USC; and cornerback Marquis Floyd, a veteran of the Arena Football League. ... The big hit of the day came in the morning when cornerback Richard Sherman hit running back T.J. Duckett. One of Trufant's contact lenses flew out of his eye, but he had the reflexes, hands and presence of mind to catch it. He then gave the lens to a trainer, with Holmgren beckoning, "How many fingers am I holding up?" ... The Seahawks will continue two-a-days until a Friday walk-through in preparation for Saturday's game at Qwest Field with the Bears. They'll be off Sunday and the first official day of the entire organization in the new VMAC facility will be Monday.

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