Hasselbeck's Approach Pays Great Dividends

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck comes at things from a slightly unconventional angle. It's an approach that has served him well. Asked at the Super Bowl whether appearing in the big game would validate his career, Hasselbeck avoided giving the stock answer.

"That sounds like a question that a bunch of sports reporters sitting around a desk should discuss," the quarterback said. "I really don't have the answer to that question. What I do know is that the more I focus on playing football, the better I play. The better I play, the better I'll do in those kinds of discussions."

Hasselbeck seems to be a better player since signing a $48 million contract before last season. The contract signaled the team's full commitment to him, erasing any doubts that might have been in his mind.

"You really feel like you can pour out your heart and soul and give everything to this organization," he once said. "There is nothing in the back of your mind saying, 'OK, am I going to be playing against this guy next year or am I going to be playing with him?'

"This is your team, this is your home, this is your family, not that it's not that way already but it's nice. You really feel like, 'Let's put everything we got into this thing, give it 100 percent.' "

Hasselbeck was 15-4 as a starter last season. That included a loss in the meaningless regular-season finale after coach Mike Holmgren removed Hasselbeck from the lineup at halftime. Hasselbeck finished the season with career highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt. He also set career marks for lowest interception percentage and fewest sacks taken as a starter.

That last part should not be understated. Staying reasonably healthy has been huge for Hasselbeck. He has missed only two games over the past three seasons, but that is a bit misleading. He played through a lot more pain while taking 42 sacks in 2004. The sack numbers fell to 30 in 2003 and 24 last season.

Hasselbeck has learned that getting rid of the football can keep him out of harm's way. In recent seasons, he has also become stronger through more rigorous workouts and improved nutrition.

As the NFC's top quarterback in 2005, and with impressive depth at nearly every offensive position, Hasselbeck could be on the verge of a great multi-year run.

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