Seahawks News & Notes - 9/13/06

Wide receiver Deion Branch struck a diplomatic tone during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. It's clear he wants to fit into the Seattle locker room and gain the kind of respect he enjoyed in New England.

"I'm excited to be a part of something that you all have, that Seattle has going right now," Branch said. "I hope everyone is not looking at me like, 'Hey, this guy is the next thing to get us going.'

"I'm just here to contribute a major role and also help this team get over that hump that they have been striving to get over. I'm just a piece of the puzzle." Branch, 27, joins a receiving group that includes Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and D.J. Hackett.

Jackson is a three-time 1,000-yard receiver. He will remain a starter as long as he's healthy. Engram is well-established as the third receiver, while Burleson was projected as the second starter -- at least before Branch arrived by trade this week.

The Seahawks have some time to figure out how the rotation will shake out. They received a two-week roster exemption to ease Branch into their offense. New England's system is quite a bit different, so Branch will have to dive into the playbook. "It's going to be a little adjustment," Branch said. "I'm familiar with it, but I think it is going to take some time. ... There is going to be some work, but I am prepared for it."

Branch has always been a diligent worker and consummate team player. New England players have been outspoken about how much he meant to their team. Branch thanked the Patriots organization for giving him a chance, looking past the nasty contract dispute that precipitated his departure from New England.

"I'd also like to thank Mr. (Jonathan) Kraft, Coach (Bill) Belichick and Scott Pioli and the organization of the New England Patriots for drafting me and giving me the opportunity to be the player that I have excelled to be," Branch said. "Hopefully I can continue to be that player here with the Seattle Seahawks and deliver as much as I did with the New England Patriots, and I will be ready and prepared to do that when my time comes."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck took a pounding in the opener. The Seahawks' top priority this week is shoring up the pass protection. Hasselbeck has matured a great deal, so he handles pressure better. That was evidenced in the opener by the fact that Hasselbeck, despite heavy pressure, avoided turnovers while completing 25 of 30 passes.

--RB Shaun Alexander has always enjoyed big games against the Cardinals, who visit Qwest Field on Sunday. Alexander had an 88-yard run against Arizona last season. The Cardinals play an aggressive
brand of defense that can lead to overpursuit. And when opponents overpursue against Seattle, Alexander makes them pay with cutback runs.

--TE Itula Mili made it through the opener without aggravating the knee injury he suffered during the exhibition season. Mili is an important part of the offense because starting TE Jerramy Stevens won't be back until next month. Mili caught four passes in the opener.

--WR Deion Branch vows to fit into the Seahawks' system without worrying about how many balls come his way. Branch was known in New England as the consummate team player. He wants to make as few waves as possible while settling into his new environs. Seattle has a two-week roster exemption, but Branch could play as early as this week.

--WR Darrell Jackson's knee held up very well Sunday in his first game back from knee surgery. He is not expected to be limited in any way heading into the second game. Jackson has 22 catches for 362 yards in his last three games against the Cardinals.

--WR Nate Burleson said he's excited to have WR Deion Branch on the team, even though the former Super Bowl MVP figures to siphon off some catches from the other receivers. Burleson said he learned a lesson in Minnesota when the Vikings added Marcus Robinson. Robinson assured Burleson that there would always be enough food on the table for everyone to eat. That's how Burleson is approaching this situation.

--LB Leroy Hill missed the opener and his status remains uncertain heading into Seattle's game against Arizona on Sunday. Hill is an ascending young player with outstanding pass-rush skills. He is also a sure and forceful tackler. Hill had 7 1/2 sacks last season despite starting only about half the year.

--DE Grant Wistrom showed no ill effects from the shoulder surgery he underwent during the offseason. He started the opener and seemed to hold up well.

--DT Russell Davis gets to face his former team this week when the Cardinals come to Qwest Field. Davis was inactive for the first game in part because he was coming off a foot injury, but also because Seattle has very good depth at the position. Davis is a starting-caliber player when healthy. This could be the week he makes an impact.


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