Hasselbeck to make first start in six weeks vs. Cardinals

RENTON, Wash. -- On the verge of not mattering any more, Matt Hasselbeck is ready to make his first start in six weeks for the slumping Seattle Seahawks.

Coach Mike Holmgren said Monday his three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will practice with the starting offense and that he plans on Hasselbeck starting at home Sunday against the first-place Arizona Cardinals, who own a commanding lead over the rest of the NFC West.

It would be Hasselbeck's first game since he hyperextended his right knee in a loss at the New York Giants on Oct. 5. A surgeon in Los Angeles found that a bulging disk in Hasselbeck's back was affecting a nerve and weakening the knee.

"I should probably see how he practices, but I am assuming there won't be any change in that," Holmgren said.

The coach added that if Hasselbeck somehow couldn't play again, third-stringer Charlie Frye might be forced to start. Backup Seneca Wallace injured a groin muscle early in Sunday's 21-19 loss at Miami, finished his fourth consecutive start with limited mobility and was extremely sore Monday.

Hasselbeck was the NFC's lowest-rated passer when he got hurt, largely because Seattle has had seven injuries at wide receiver this season. Holmgren has barely been able to hide his eagerness for the 33-year-old to return, in hopes of salvaging at least something from this lost season.

"His experience -- he sees more things," Holmgren said. "He can get us out of a bad play maybe a little bit easier. I think any time you get a player back, at any position, I think you get a little boost."

Seattle could use any it can get, if only for morale. The Seahawks are 1-4 without Hasselbeck. They are 1-3 with him, and seem headed to early elimination in a division Seattle has ruled for four years.

"Typically, it's been just flipped," he said of the games with Arizona, when Seattle has usually been cruising as the heavy favorite. "Now, the fact we are running uphill, it was talked about [Monday] and will be talked about all week."

Wide receiver Deion Branch will also return against the Cardinals. Branch has played in just one half of one game since January following reconstructive knee surgery and a bruised heel.

Fullback Leonard Weaver has bruised ribs and is questionable.

Hasselbeck, Branch and Weaver weren't around in the locker room late Monday afternoon.

Keary Colbert was around, though, after dropping a pair of passes in Miami. Seattle dropped five balls -- one in the end zone -- and committed five penalties for false starts while squandering a victory against the Dolphins.

"With our margin of error, we can't have any mistakes," Wallace said Sunday, echoing what his coach has been saying throughout his 10th and final season in Seattle.

Holmgren said he is "doing my darndest to keep my head above water" and provide a positive, upbeat example for his players for the remainder of this season. That's despite his worst record after nine games since 2000, the early stages of his rebuilding Seattle into a perennial contender.

"Outwardly, I hope I've handled the team well. Inwardly, you'll never know how much it hurts [to lose so much]," he said with a small smile. "It's hard."