Bloody true: Seahawks are tougher
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck excels despite two broken ribs, thanks to painkillers shot directly into the fractures by an expert on precise injections the team had summoned to get Hasselbeck to play. The emergency left tackle is forced from the practice squad into the starting offense - then plays the final two quarters with a sprained knee. Fullback Owen Schmitt is so fired up before that same game against Jacksonville last weekend, he has blood streaming down his face. Before kickoff. From bashing his head with his own helmet. Nope, no one is calling the Seahawks soft anymore. "We haven't played our best football, but I really feel like we're a hard, physical tough team. That hasn't necessarily been something we've been about here," Hasselbeck said after a 41-0 win over the Jaguars that revived Seattle's season. "I think we're a physical team, I think we have that kind of a mentality now," he said. "It's not that bad of a thing," Known as being a finesse team for a decade with former coach Mike Holmgren and his pass-first West Coast offense, the Seahawks are transforming under Jim Mora. Yes, the team the Arizona Cardinals will find opposite them on Sunday is a different division rival than it has been recently, and not just because the Seahawks will again be without a half dozen or more injured starters. Mora said he hasn't explicitly attempted to make his guys tougher in his first season in Seattle, but he doesn't mind if that's the perception. "I mean, we want to be known as a tough team," he said. Hasselbeck may have to be even tougher this weekend. The Seahawks will be starting their fourth option at left tackle when Kyle Williams faces havoc-wreaking defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. That's potentially bad news for Hasselbeck's blind side and the ribs that are broken high in his back. Some of this increased toughness was expected, given Mora's intensity and the more run-oriented offense that new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has installed. But when Hasselbeck is left speechless by Schmitt's self-inflicted bloodbath in the spirit of team motivation just before kickoff, it shows a depth of grit more synonymous with Dick Butkus' Chicago Bears or Ray Nitschke's Green Bay Packers. "It probably wasn't smart," Hasselbeck said of Schmitt's stunt, which the second-year wild man also did while at West Virginia University. "But I really think the mindset of our team has changed." Hasselbeck was in intense pain at the beginning of last week after accelerating his rehabilitation work so he could save a team that had lost three straight. Sunday, he threw four touchdown passes, his most in two years. He also ran for 23 yards and even tried to throw a downfield block. "One of the guttiest performances I've seen," Knapp said of Hasselbeck's week - and he coached Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young through concussions and a broken rib while both were in San Francisco. Williams was on the practice squad Saturday morning. By Sunday afternoon, he was the first-team left tackle, after Brandon Frye was lost for the season to a neck injury. Then Williams sprained his knee on a field goal in the first half. Doctors and trainers swarmed him on the bench to keep him going. He kept playing. He had to. His team had no one left. Monday, it signed Damion McIntosh out of his personal workout room in Kansas City, six weeks after the Chiefs cut their former starting tackle. Seahawks assistant Mike Solari has been coaching offensive lines since 1976. He said he's never seen so many blockers hurt at the same position. "It's different," Solari deadpanned. As for Williams now being hurt, the practice squad escapee said Wednesday, "I'm fine. It wasn't a big deal." Oh, so don't throw him into Seattle's growing tough pile? "I mean, you can if you want," Williams said with a smile.