If he wants to win, he should probably return sooner rather than later.
With Hasselbeck unlikely to play, the Seahawks look to win their eighth straight against the Rams when the NFC West rivals meet Sunday in a matchup of two of the league’s worst teams.
Hasselbeck, who has a bulging disk in his back, wants to play again in 2008 even though doctors have told him disk injuries don’t heal within an NFL season. He’s started seven games this year and been in and out of the lineup due to the injury.
The veteran quarterback could stay out the rest of the way and get healthy for 2009, but he wants to do everything he can to help his teammates down the stretch of what has been a dismal season.
Hasselbeck, though, missed practice Thursday, coming out only briefly to stretch with teammates before leaving for more work on the bulging disk in his back. He sat out last week’s loss to New England after being sacked seven times against Dallas on Nov. 27.
With coach Mike Holmgren three weeks away from taking a sabbatical from football, this matchup figures to be the Seattle’ best chance to get him a win.
The Seahawks beat the Rams 37-13 on Sept. 21 for their seventh win in a row in the series since a 27-10 loss in a wild-card game Jan. 8, 2005. Seattle has averaged 30.8 points per game during the run.
After Sunday’s contest, Seattle (2-11) will conclude the season against a couple of division leaders, the New York Jets and Arizona.
The Seahawks, though, has been playing well against good teams in recent weeks. They’ve blown a chance to win or tie late against a playoff contender each of the past three weeks, most recently in a 24-21 loss to New England on Sunday.
Holmgren gave his team a fiery talk Monday, imploring his captains and coaches to continue their hard work.
“I have great affection for this team and these guys. I believe I have a good relationship with most of the guys on the football team,” said Holmgren, in his 17th year as a head coach. “But I’m still the old head coach, and they’ve got to play. I’ve got to yell at them, they get mad at me.”
Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said Holmgren’s emotional words hit home.
“He gave us our goals, which was win these games. But he said you guys also have to start thinking about your future, where it is with this team,” Tatupu said. “It was tough. It was a tough little meeting.”
Tatupu is the leader of a defense that has regressed despite returning every starter from last season. The Seahawks are allowing 25.7 points a contest after surrendering 18.1 in 2007.
St. Louis (2-11) has been even worse. The Rams rank 31st in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 31.8 points per game.
“If the defense puts us in a bad spot, we have got to cover them. If we put them in a bad spot, they’ve got to cover us,” quarterback Marc Bulger told the Rams’ official Web site. “Right now we are not doing that for each other and that’s why we have two wins.”
The St. Louis offense hasn’t been much better, scoring 12 points or fewer in each of the last three games.
Running back Steven Jackson lost two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown, in a 34-10 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. The Rams have committed 21 turnovers the last six games, five of them blowout losses.
“Obviously, three turnovers and a missed field goal, that’s the stuff you’ve got to eliminate from your game,” St. Louis coach Jim Haslett said.
Jackson does seems closer to full strength after returning to the lineup the previous week after missing most of November due to a quadriceps injury. He had a 32-yard run in the first half versus Arizona, hurdling a defender on his way to a big gain.
Offensive tackle Alex Barron’s return to the starting lineup should help open holes for Jackson. Barron was benched the first half after reporting 20 minutes late for a team meeting Friday, ending his run of 47 consecutive starts.