Holmgren Looks Ahead to Final Preseason Game

A day after releasing fifteen players from his team, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was already looking ahead to the items on his list of concerns for the final preseason week. The list of cuts, which brought the team below the season's first league-mandated roster limit of 75 players, produced only one real surprise – NFL Europe star Gibran Hamdan.

Hamdan, by many accounts, had outperformed second-year man David Greene in training camp. But Holmgren had said that the desire to see more of Greene’s potential was behind the move, and the wider view starts this Thursday night, at Qwest Field, against the Oakland Raiders. Whether Greene will get an early look against Oakland’s starting defense is another matter. “I was thinking about that,” Holmgren told the assembled media, when asked if Greene would get a first-half series. “I haven’t decided yet, whether he will get that or not. If there is a possibility, I will do that.”

Holmgren then further outlined the time shared by Seattle’s remaining quarterbacks. “Matt (Hasselbeck) will probably go about a quarter, a couple of series, anyway. And then I want to get Greene a little more time, give him a chance to play. When he’s gotten in the game we’ve had the ball on the 2-yard line, it hasn’t been really fair. He and Seneca (Wallace) will finish the game.”

What will Holmgren be looking for from the second-year quarterback from Georgia? “What David has to do is just play and show me he can manage the football team and make the throws,” the coach replied. “I would say be solid, not spectacular. He really hasn’t had much of a chance. We put him in the game at the end of the games and it’s a little wild in there. Hopefully he gets a chance to do some things and get a little time to throw and do some of the things I expect him to do. He has to do that now. He has to be able to show me he is solid in those areas.”

Holmgren was asked about another signing – Oakland’s Monday acquisition of veteran Jeff George, the talented but mercurial quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since September 24, 2001, when he was a member of the Washington Redskins. After his release from Washington later that season, George went home to Indianapolis, waited a year longer, and received a call from Holmgren in October of 2002, asking him to come to Seattle and take some snaps. He signed with Seattle two days after Trent Dilfer’s season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury, when Matt Hasselbeck was suffering from a sprained foot. In the end, Hasselbeck was able to play out the string, and George never got more than a few practice reps. After an aborted try with Chicago in 2004, George had been out of football ever since.

“Well, you know what, bless his heart, he was great when he was with us, didn’t get to play, but he was great in the locker room and I enjoyed having him here,” Holmgren said. Holmgren also mentioned that George hasn’t been silent about his wish to play in Seattle again. “Over the last couple of years, he has phoned Jim Zorn many times, talked to me a couple times, saying that he can still play and he’s ready, ‘Come on, give me a chance.’ His mind is in the right place. It will be interesting to see what happens. He always could throw the ball, and throw it very, very well. He’s a little older now than he used to be. We will just have to see how that thing turns out.”

Back to his own team, and the man snapping the ball to his quarterbacks – center Robbie Tobeck has been out recovering from an elbow injury, and Holmgren plans to be very cautious with the veteran. “I don’t think he’s going to play against the Raiders, but he will be ready to play against Detroit. He’ll be ready to start for Detroit.”

It seems as if Seattle’s injury situation has been especially frustrating this preseason, and the team received another blow after the loss to the Chargers on Saturday night, when backup safety Mike Green was lost for the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury, a fracture and dislocation of the joint between the forefoot and midfoot. Having taken his teams to the Super Bowl three different times over his head coaching career, Holmgren was asked if he believes that making the Super Bowl, and the later season, leads to an increased susceptibility to injury. “I don’t think so. Your off-season is a little shorter, but that is the only thing. The way the off-season programs are in this day and age, I don’t think there is any you wouldn’t be in shape. Our guys came in in good shape. To me that would be a stretch, trying to make that point.”

The safety position in Green’s absence is being addressed by the team this week. “I think the main thing is that (Ken) Hamlin seems to be playing just fine and not experiencing any problems based on last year, so that’s a great thing,” Holmgren said about the miraculous recovery of his starting free safety from serious head injuries last October. “Michael Boulware has been a little rusty because he missed a lot of camp with (an) injury, but I have a lot of confidence in him. We will miss Mike Green. He was having a good camp and of course we lost him for the season, but someone has to emerge. We’re moving Jordan Babineaux to safety so he will play there most of the time now. I feel good about the position.”

According to the coach, a lack of offseason interest in workouts had nothing to do with it. “We had 80 percent (off-season workout participation) this year. That’s a high. We’ve had as little as 45 percent when we first started it and now it has gradually built and built its way up.”

The awareness of the need for those workouts has greatly increased in the last few years. “When I first got here it was a little bit of a problem, I thought,” Holmgren said. “Guys had things written into their contracts that weren’t all the same, it was a little bit of a mess. We just said we’re not going to do that. They get a per diem; everyone gets the same amount of money. That’s how we mandated things.

“I think (strength and conditioning coaches) Kent Johnston and Mike Clark, they do a great job of encouraging guys, and they’re well liked. They run a good off-season program. Quite honestly, the players know. Unless your home is in Florida or New York or some place so far away from here that it’s hard, or if you’re in school - we had a couple guys in school getting their degrees, there are reasons you’re not involved in the off-season program. If you don’t have a good reason, with the way the team is going, I think the feeling there is to be there, and be a part of this thing, and that is what is happening. I think culture plays a big part of that.”

The final round of league-mandated roster cuts happens on Sunday, September 2, when teams are required to pare their rosters back to 53. When asked which positions would have the most opportunity for cuts, Holmgren was understandably reticent to reveal his plans. “I’m going to refrain from that, and I’m not trying to be cute here, it’s just that the players read everything, and they listen to everything.”

“In fairness to the guys that are battling like crazy, I don’t want them to think anything but how they’re going to play in the football game. It’s a very competitive situation and we have a better football team now, so we have more starters in place. As far as our depth and who we keep, they’re still battling right down to the wire and I’d like to keep it like that if I could.”

Can an extraordinary performance in the final preseason game make a difference for a player on the bubble? “Absolutely,” Holmgren said. “There are some really close battles. How do you decide? If someone were to have a spectacular game where you just say, ‘There is no way this guy can not make the football team’, that has happened.

“It could happen Thursday night.”

One more reason to tune in.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.

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