Robinson returns, but how much will he help?

"In the five games Robinson has been absent, Rice has bagged 21 receptions for 332 yards and three touchdowns, including an incredible one-handed TD catch against the Jets last Sunday. Compare and contrast – in the last five games Robinson played, he caught only 18 balls for 323 yards and one TD."

On Monday, Seahawk wide receiver Koren Robinson’s four-game substance abuse suspension ended, and he returned to the practice field. Robinson actually hadn’t played in five weeks – Mike Holmgren benched him for the Miami game on November 21 because Robinson missed a team meeting (unfortunately, he is a repeat offender in that regard). He hasn’t taken the field since the Seahawks’ visit to St. Louis on November 14, a game in which the Seahawks suffered a 23-12 loss and a season sweep at the hands of the Rams.

Although he has great physical potential, Robinson’s 2004 season can only be classified as a disappointment, and that could be said before the suspension. He has caught 31 passes for 495 yards and only two touchdowns in eight games this season. Considered the team’s deep threat, Robinson has actually caught only one pass that resulted in a gain of more than 20 yards. At the time of his suspension, he led the NFL in dropped passes – and after five weeks away from the field he’s still second in the league in that statistic (and tied with his teammate, Darrell Jackson) behind the Bengals’ Chad Johnson. In truth, Robinson only has one exceptional game in 2004 – he caught 9 passes for 150 yards and no TDs against the Patriots in Week Five.

Holmgren, knowing that Robinson would be suspended, acquired legendary wideout Jerry Rice from the Raiders on October 18 for a conditional 2005 seventh-round pick. Rice was expected to do little more than provide veteran leadership, but has actually been a key offensive weapon. In the five games Robinson has been absent, Rice has bagged 21 receptions for 332 yards and three touchdowns, including an incredible one-handed TD catch against the Jets last Sunday. Compare and contrast – in the last five games Robinson played, he caught only 18 balls for 323 yards and one TD.

Despite the disparity in those numbers, and the disappointment he has been to the team, Holmgren plans to alternate Robinson with Rice at the very least against the Cardinals at home this Sunday. It’s still possible that Robinson could start over Rice. When asked why he was altering a seemingly good thing, Holmgren stressed the importance of the Seahawks’ final two regular-season games against Arizona and Atlanta. If the Seahawks win one of their two remaining games, they are guaranteed a playoff berth. If they beat the Cardinals and the Rams lose to the Eagles on Monday night, the Seahawks will win the NFC West, a scenario that will also happen if the team simply wins their final two games.

Holmgren said that he has kept a sharp eye on Robinson’s progress. "To think that he's going to be going on all four cylinders, like he was before the suspension, I think is probably a little ambitious," Holmgren said. "But at the same time, the game's very, very important, and he has to play and be a part of it. He's got to help us. Now."

Robinson, for his part, sounded very upbeat and happy to be back in the fold when he spoke to the media on Wednesday after practice. "I feel like I have an infectious attitude, personality. That will outweigh or overcome anything that has happened or whatever. I'm not worried about it”, Robinson said when asked if he thought his public image might have taken a hit after all his travails. "My mama loves me. The Lord loves me. Coach respects me. As a man then, hey, you've got to move on. I'm going to smile, keep it moving, keep my prayers up that way."

Robinson also talked about how the suspension affected him. "It's a learning experience," he said. "Don't put yourself in certain situations or stuff like that can happen. Just take whatever you can from that and just move on. I'm 24. I'm still growing as a young man. I still have a lot to learn."

For Koren Robinson and a Seahawk offense that will now be forced to rely on him to a greater extent, class is in session this Sunday.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.


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