Hawks' injuries thrust backups into spotlight
By José Miguel Romero
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHENEY — Thank goodness for a 90-man roster.
The large number of players is just what the doctor ordered, because the Seahawks need every able body they can put on the field this weekend.
And speaking of doctors, the team training staff will also have a busy weekend. While the Seahawks are home at Qwest Field playing the Dallas Cowboys in their exhibition opener Saturday, trainers in Cheney will put the injured players through a scheduled regimen of rehabilitation and treatment.
The Seahawks are expected to have at least 77 players available for the game. The other 12 or 13 will stay in Cheney, and among that group are six projected starters.
Safety Michael Boulware (ankle), defensive end Grant Wistrom (shoulder) and wide receiver Darrell Jackson (knee) are all coming back from surgeries. Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs is still a ways from returning from an Achilles injury.
Left guard Floyd Womack (strained hamstring) won't play, nor will tight end Jerramy Stevens, who is back in practice after knee-surgery rehabilitation but not yet ready for a game.
Other key players who will be absent: Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (knee pain), linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski (sore quadriceps) and wide receiver D.J. Hackett (strained hamstring).
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will play one series if it's a long drive, not much more if it isn't, and running back Shaun Alexander isn't expected to play beyond the first quarter.
Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace will play the bulk of the game, with David Greene and Gibran Hamdan finishing, coach Mike Holmgren said.
The plan will be adjusted for the other members of the first-team offense and defense.
"Because of our injury situation, the rest of it will be quite different," Holmgren said. "We're a little bit short. There are a lot of guys that aren't going to play."
Starting linebacker Leroy Hill and first-round draft pick Kelly Jennings, a cornerback, did not practice Thursday morning. But the pair returned to take part in the afternoon team practice, even after Hill had an MRI of his foot and Jennings was dealing with groin pain. It appears promising that they will play Saturday.
Injuries and rest for starters have opened up opportunities for players such as second-year center Chris Spencer and middle linebacker Niko Koutouvides to step in for more snaps during practice. Spencer will start at left guard for Womack, then move inside to center when starter Robbie Tobeck departs.
When Spencer goes to center, rookie Rob Sims takes over at left guard.
Koutouvides, in his third pro season, will take over for starter Lofa Tatupu.
"Niko has to again show that he can be the middle linebacker and make the calls," Holmgren said.
"I understand the defense very well," Koutouvides said. "Any mistakes I make out there are mistakes I can easily correct. It's basically like a mental error, nothing physical. I love the middle. It's where all the contact is."
There will be several positions to watch — the Seahawks are looking for backups at fullback and safety and a starter at left cornerback, where Kelly Herndon has the slight edge over Jennings for now.
The coaching staff will also look at the tight ends in search of a third one for the roster. Stevens and Itula Mili are the top two, with Will Heller out in front of Matt Murphy and Keith Willis for the final spot.