Coach Mike Holmgren said Monday his three-time Pro Bowl passer will not play Sunday night when the Seahawks (1-4) are at Tampa Bay (4-2). If backup Seneca Wallace can practice this week after missing last week with a calf injury, he will start. If not, No. 3 quarterback Charlie Frye will make his second consecutive start.
Hasselbeck sat out Sunday's 27-17 loss to Green Bay, his first missed game in two years, then flew to Los Angeles on Sunday night to see a specialist for a second opinion. The team was calling his injury a hyperextended knee, and the quarterback was calling it a bone bruise, after a hit from behind and in front early in Seattle's loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 5.
Monday, the doctor in California called it a bulging disk condition that is pressing on a nerve that runs down his leg to his right knee and, thus, causing weakness in the joint. Hasselbeck was given a series of core strength exercises for his back and knee.
"It's tied in with the disk situation. It appears as though he will not be able to play this week," Holmgren said. "They have put him on a series of rehab tests and so on. And as soon as he can pass those as far as strength in his leg, then we can get him back on the field.
"My hope is that we will have him available for the game after this one, San Francisco," on Oct. 26.
Hasselbeck, who turned 33 last month, missed all but the first two series of the preseason with what he said were back spasms sustained in "an incident" in practice before his brief appearance in the first exhibition game Aug. 8 at Minnesota. Holmgren said Monday he had no idea of such an incident in practice. He believed Hasselbeck hurt his back on a touchdown pass against the Vikings.
Hasselbeck had injections then to relieve the inflammation around the disk. Holmgren said Monday doctors are now beyond prescribing injections for a quick fix and instead are focused on building strength in Hasselbeck's back and knee with physical therapy.
Hasselbeck has said doctors told him in August the bulging disk is probably an old injury that showed up on a recent MRI to detect the source of his training camp pain.
"Sort of old news to me. My back does not bother me one bit. I'm not sore in any way," he said on Sept. 8.
Holmgren was dismissive about Hasselbeck's bulging disk when asked about it immediately after a loss at Buffalo in the opener on Sept. 7, when Hasselbeck completed just 17 of 41 passes and was sacked five times. The coach said again Monday he believes if any adult above the age of 30 or so had an MRI taken on his or her back it would likely show abnormalities in a disk or two.
Hasselbeck is the lowest-rated passer in the NFC after having six receivers hurt through September. Sunday's loss and this weekend's game against the Buccaneers are the first games he's missed since November 2006, when he missed four games with another knee injury.
So it goes for the sinking Seahawks. They are off to their worst start since 2002, their last losing season. They are already 2½ games behind first-place Arizona and tied with St. Louis at the bottom of the NFC West, which Seattle has ruled the last four seasons.
"We are in a tough spot," Holmgren said.