"Dit Adieu, Jean-Phillipe..."

The Seahawks' Wednesday was marked by one arrival and one departure. While the team and the city were very excited to welcome new receiver Deion Branch to his first practice in Seahawks blue, head coach Mike Holmgren had to make a tough announcement that put a damper on the day.

Long snapper Jean-Phillipe Darche, the special teams standout and 2006 Seahawks co-captain, was placed on the injured reserve list after a long-term hip injury finally found the Montreal native unable to play further. Holmgren revealed in his weekly Wednesday press conference that Darche’s condition had long been an issue. “It’s been bothering him and it’s gotten worse and worse, and no amount of rest or treatment has seemed to have helped,” Holmgren said. “Obviously he’s very disappointed. He’s a wonderful guy, and has done a great job for us. Now they fix it and in the meantime we have to find somebody, and we’ve worked out some guys, and I don’t want to say anything until we’ve actually done the deal.”

Later in the day, "the deal” was made public, as the Seahawks signed former Falcons TE/LS Derek Rackley. Rackley passed a physical and was added to the roster.

Darche said that he injured the hip in off-season workouts. The injury "kind of went away," he said, "then re-surfaced in training camp." He will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week, and is expected to make a full recovery.

Darche’s physical status, Holmgren revealed, was a factor in the two blocked field goals suffered by the Seahawks in their 9-6 win over the Detroit Lions last Sunday. He has no strength to push against anybody,” Holmgren said. “He has a blocking assignment after he snaps the ball and he couldn’t execute it. It wasn’t J.P.’s fault, but as a result normally he can help them and create a little squeeze in there and he couldn’t do it.

“He made a valiant effort in the game Sunday, but it was painful to watch and now we’ve got to fix it.”

Holmgren also talked about Darche’s value, and the value of certain unheralded special teams positions. Being able to rely on that man in the middle is only a noticeable factor when said man doesn’t do his job, and disaster results. “He’s been great,” the coach said of his long snapper since 2000 who had never missed a game in his NFL career until now. “I can’t remember a real bad snap. I really can’t. We’ve had mishaps on special teams, but as far as what he was asked to do and also covering kicks and blocking, he was great.

”Teams had typically undersized centers, you’d see tight ends in there, you’d see guys about JP’s size, they were just getting mauled, it got to be a little dangerous in our opinion, so the league changed the rule where you can’t be right over the center, the interior people have to at least be on the center’s shoulders.”

Holmgren doesn’t see the scenario where a player like guard Chris Gray, who has experience at center, could move over and do the job full-time – the position is worth a roster spot in and of itself. “Gray has done PATs and field goals before, and in an emergency he could do a punt. That’s become a very specialized position in the league in the last few years. It’s a very important position.”

“I think it’s a little amazing to me that guys coming out of college aren’t more skilled at this, because it’s a way to stay in the National Football League, and stay in the league for a long time if you can do this, if this is your skill,” Holmgren continued.

As for Darche himself, no amount of praise from his coach can temper the blow of a lost season. 2006 is the last year of his current contract. "It's extremely, extremely disappointing and tough to handle right now," Darche told Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press today.

"I had a cortisone shot a couple of times and everything was kind of good, but it flared up before Sunday's game and during the game it was unbearable. I had another cortisone shot Monday and tried to get better for this weekend but it's not getting any better, so I'll need surgery."

The highlight of Darche's career so far may have been the game-clinching recovery of a Shaun McDonald punt return fumble when the Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams, 37-31, in October of 2005 at the Edward Jones Dome. The Seahawks had been under the Rams' thumbs for years until that win, which typified Seattle's miracle season.

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