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A rash of injuries to their wide receivers has forced the Seattle Seahawks to bring back a talented player with a checkered past. They not only hope Koren Robinson has truly turned his life around this time, but that he can help them avoid their first 0-3 start in six years.
After apparently conquering his personal demons once again, Robinson leads the injury-wracked Seahawks against the inept St. Louis Rams on Sunday in a matchup pitting the NFL’s two worst defenses.
Seattle has already lost six receivers due to injury, including Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu and Logan Payne for the season. Veterans Deion Branch and Bobby Engram have yet to play, and are not expected to return until after the bye week later this month. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace - pressed into service as a receiver - will miss the next month after injuring his calf last week during pre-game warmups.
To shore up the position, Seattle acquired Keary Colbert from Denver for a reported fifth-round draft pick on Tuesday. The Seahawks then agreed to a one-year contract with Robinson, who immediately becomes quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s top target again.
From 2001-04, Robinson averaged 53 catches for almost 792 yards and three touchdowns per season.
Before rejoining the team that selected him ninth overall in 2001, Robinson had to prove he’s changed since they released him in 2005 because of repeated alcohol issues.
“Just because of the terms and circumstances I left Seattle on, I never thought I’d be back,” said the 28-year-old Robinson, who said he’s been sober for 25 months thanks in large part to a new marriage and family. “I’m grateful for this chance. I think it can be a good story - for me and the team.”
Robinson said the final incident that caused him to change came just over two years ago. Police said Robinson, then with Minnesota, led them on a car chase at speeds more than 100 mph, and that his blood-alcohol content was found to be well above the legal limit of 0.08.
Robinson was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading down to a charge of fleeing police. He also was sentenced to three months in jail for violating probation on a separate drunken-driving case in Kirkland, Wash., in 2006.
He was reinstated in October, and played nine games with Green Bay last year, but this clearly is Robinson’s last chance: If he violates the league’s substance-abuse policy again, he faces a lifetime ban.
“I guess what I care about more is that he grew up and really matured and got his life turned around in the right direction. … I’m proud of him,” Hasselbeck said.
Apart from their roster issues, the Seahawks (0-2) also must tighten up on defense, which features 11 returning starters and four Pro Bowlers. After giving up 34 points in a Week 1 loss at Buffalo, the Seahawks returned home and allowed journeyman J.T. O’Sullivan to pass for 321 yards in a stunning 33-30 overtime loss to San Francisco last week.
“Look, we just have to regroup,” coach Mike Holmgren told the Seahawks’ official Web site. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, fix the things we can fix, hopefully, and get ready for the Rams next week.”
Given St. Louis’ poor start to 2008, the Seahawks may not have to work that hard. Though the Rams have been outscored 79-16 in a pair of blowout losses, third-year coach Scott Linehan made a bold prediction.
“In my mind, we’re going to beat Seattle,” he said. “I’m not making any guarantees. In my mind we’re going to beat Seattle and we’re going to right this ship, OK, because we don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice and neither does anybody else around here.”
Perhaps the only bright spot during last week’s game was that defensive end Chris Long, selected second overall in the 2008 draft, recorded his first career sack.
St. Louis has given up nearly 1,000 yards of offense while managing less than 400 so far this season. The team has yet to run a play inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“I think it’s a fragile group and we’ve got to stay the course,” offensive coordinator Al Saunders said. “I’m disappointed, certainly. I’m not discouraged about these guys, because I know what we can do down the road.”
Steven Jackson, a three-time, 1,000-yard rusher who ended a lengthy holdout last month by signing a long-term deal, has rushed just 27 times for 93 yards so far. He’s found the end zone in each of his last three games versus the Seahawks, but has yet to have a 100-yard game in his career when facing them.
The Rams have lost six straight meetings with the Seahawks.