Branch, who held out through the preseason because he was unhappy with the fifth year of his rookie contract in New England, was traded to Seattle on Monday for the Seahawks’ 2007 first-round draft pick. In the end, coach Mike Holmgren chose continuity over the “new factor” as his team tries to overcome the lackluster opening effort they showed when they barely beat the Detroit Lions, 9-6, last Sunday. Seattle’s three receivers will be Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram, with Hackett as the deep threat off the bench.
Through the week, Holmgren went from definite to unsure when asked if he would start his newest player – though Branch wasn’t sharp by football standards after missing all of training camp, the preseason, and the Pats’ opening win over the Buffalo Bills, the coach was also impressed with Branch’s ability to work with the team during practice this week.
“We’re going to talk about it,” Holmgren said after Friday’s practice. “I think it’s a little unrealistic for anybody to come in with a couple days of practice and play after not having played for a long time, but he’s a special kid. If anyone could do it, he could. I’ve been going back and forth with it, to be honest with you.
“He seems to be in fairly good shape,” the coach continued. “The only negative is that he hasn’t really practiced enough to put him on the field with two days of practice, while he’s spinning, learning what we do. That’s a little bit unfair to the athlete. I could stick him out there and run a couple plays with him I’m sure. Then you have to weigh the advantage of that over someone who has practiced with us a lot and knows our stuff.”
The Seahawks welcome the New York Giants to Qwest Field next Sunday. With another week of practice under his belt, don’t be surprised to see Branch in that game as a featured part of Seattle’s offense - especially if said offense continues to struggle against the Cardinals.
Sims Fined for Hasselbeck Hit
The Detroit Free Press first reported that Detroit Lions LB Ernie Sims has been fined $7,500 by the league for his hit on Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck in the third quarter of Seattle's 9-6 win over Detroit last Sunday. Hasselbeck had already started to slide feet-first on the Ford Field turf after a five-yard run when Sims dove at Hasselbeck helmet-first. Defenders are directed to make every possible effort to avoid contact with quarterbacks who have started to slide.
Ray Anderson, the NFL's senior vice president of football operations, released the following statement: "After Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left the pocket and ran up the middle, with defenders in front of and behind him, he began his slide. The defender in front of the quarterback, Ernie Sims of Detroit, had the opportunity to avoid contact, but instead drove his helmet into the quarterback, resulting in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. In contrast, the trailing defender, Cory Redding, leapt over the sliding quarterback in order to avoid contact."
Sims said that while he will be more aware in future, he must continue to play aggresively. "Oh, I care about the fine," he said. "That's the last thing I want to do is get a fine. I've got to be a smart ballplayer. But at the same time, I can't let nothing take away from my game."
Sims was one of three defenders to receive fines from the league for excessive contact against quarterbacks –Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of Arizona and Dallas strong safety Roy Williams of Dallas were also fined $7,500. Williams' tackle of Terrell Owens in 2004, which broke Owens' leg, prompted the league to adopt the "Roy Williams Rule" against horse-collar tackles.
Dockett, who faces the Seahawks tomorrow, dove at the legs of San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith after Smith threw an incomplete pass. Dockett may have added to his problems with the league when he refused to show contrition, instead telling the Arizona Republic that he “was just running, and I will do the same thing (Sunday) against (Matt) Hasselbeck.”