Hasselbeck, Jones seek return to Seahawks

SEATTLE -- Matt Hasselbeck has a bulging disk in his back that could eventually require surgery. Left tackle Walter Jones has bad, 34-year-old knees.

Both are trying to return with three meaningless games left in the Seahawks' lost season.

"My job is to just get better for this week, and that is what I am trying to do," Hasselbeck said Wednesday, between sessions of running, throwing, swimming, lifting weights and training-room treatments. "That's the way I can help the team.

"It's just a matter, I guess, of managing the risk," he said.

Some fans would rather not see Hasselbeck and Jones again. Some even want Seattle to tank its final three games, ensuring the Seahawks (2-11) one of the top five choices in April's draft. Seattle had won four consecutive NFC West titles before this face-plant but is tied with the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs for the third-worst record in the league.

Coach Mike Holmgren says tanking a season in the NFL does little for the future.

"The conventional wisdom is if you draft in the top five or 10 picks of the draft, you're going to get a really great player," the former GM-coach said. "I know other sports, at times, have been criticized for that, and sometimes it's pretty obvious [that a team is tanking]. I don't think football's viewed that way, I really don't."

Plus, for the outgoing Holmgren and his team co-captains Hasselbeck and Jones, this final month is a test of leadership.

"If he's healthy enough to play, he should play -- in fairness to his teammates, first of all," Holmgren said. "It's a team sport, we talk about team unity and battling for each other, all that kind of stuff. As soon as you start [preserving stars], if a guy can play, I think you're not being true to your word.

"I don't know many good players," he added, "that say, 'OK, I'll sit it out. Thank you.'"

The Seahawks' three-time Pro Bowl quarterback said the bulging disk and numbness in his back that has kept him out of six games, including last week's loss to the New England Patriots, has him questionable for the final three games, including Sunday at St. Louis.

"It has been brought up that as of right now, I don't need surgery and so I'll be 100 percent by Valentine's Day, if nothing changes. That has been discussed," Hasselbeck said.

Hasselbeck says he not only wants but also expects to play again this season, but team doctors told Holmgren they have other ideas.

"Until he gets that little tingle to go away, it doesn't look like they're going to let him go," Holmgren said Wednesday.

Jones, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection with a reputation as the pre-eminent left tackle in the NFL, has so much pain in his knees that he has trouble standing up.

Last week was the first time since his rookie year of 1997 that Jones missed a game because of injury. His other four absences were because of a contract holdout (2002) and when he was rested because Seattle had already clinched a playoff spot (2005 and '07).

Hey, Big Walt, you don't need to prove a thing to anyone. Why not start your offseason now?

"Ha!" Jones said with an extended laugh. "I'm trying to get out there. It's not that there's just three games left and the record ain't what it should be. I still want to be out there and fight with the guys."

Though his knees ache, Jones has no pain in the shoulders that had prompted multiple surgeries over the years. He says he feels as good as he ever has thanks to a dedication to eating healthier that began last offseason.

Leadership is the main reason Hasselbeck pushed his luck to get back to play three games last month, after a specialist in Los Angeles advised he should probably shut it down for the year to heal his back.

It's also why Jones played through pain after getting whacked in the leg months ago, until he finally sat out after allowing two sacks -- a rare occurrence for him -- at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

"Matt and Walter, I mean, I've never had better guys than those two," Holmgren said. "I mean, Walter is a warrior. He's played through any number of injuries and hasn't missed much time. And Matt's sacrifice ... what he had to do to come back this season and play, it's pretty remarkable, really."

And leadership is why Holmgren, the 17-year veteran head coach who begins his 2009 sabbatical from football in three weeks, says: "I've had to push myself in some ways I've never had to really push myself before."

"I've never experienced anything like this, since my very first job in high school," the 60-year-old former history teacher said. "I've had to be more aware this season of the players watching me and how I react. I think they've kind of watched to see if I'd just faint or something.

"Believe me that inside, it's painful. It's difficult. But they have to know that I'm not going to leave them. They have to know that I'm going to battle until the end," he said.

In other Seahawks injury news, defensive end Patrick Kerney and offensive guard Mike Wahle have completed successful shoulder surgeries.

Kerney had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. The two-time Pro Bowler is expected to be sidelined until training camp begins in July 2009.

Holmgren said Kerney's third surgery in less than 12 months on his left shoulder was more extensive than expected. Holmgren thinks the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end will probably miss most of training camp next summer because of what the coach believes was Kerney's second torn labrum since last January.

"It wasn't just a little thing," Holmgren said of the injury to his leading pass rusher, who had five sacks in seven games before reinjuring his shoulder on Oct. 26 in a win at San Francisco. "His rehab is going to be a long one. ... It wasn't just, 'Go in and some little thing fell down someplace and they pick it out and off we go.' It was a little bit more than that."

Wahle, also a two-time Pro Bowler, had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. It was his second operation on that shoulder since 2006. The Seahawks estimate Wahle's recovery time at eight to 12 weeks.

The Seahawks also signed center Donovan Raiola to the practice squad. That was after the Broncos signed Seahawks practice squad guard Pat Murray to their active roster.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.