Engram Scratched for Sunday's Game

The Seahawks took to the practice field one more time on Friday before heading out to St. Louis for Sunday's key divisional matchup with the Rams. One player conspicuous by his absence was receiver Bobby Engram, the ultra-reliable slot man who has been diagnosed with a thyroid condition after days of speculation.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren had Engram’s condition more on his mind than any particular gameplan. “He is resting,” the coach said of Engram. “He is taking it easy this week. He is on medicine and getting his strength back and feeling better, but I didn’t even want him coming into the building. He is at home just getting better.”

“He has a thyroid condition,” Holmgren confirmed to the assembled media. “(The doctors) are going to take some more tests - it feels like his heart is racing, like it is going a million miles an hour. He has to slow that thing down just a little bit and it has zapped his energy. He has no energy. There is a viral condition and also a thing called Graves’ disease.”

Graves’ Disease (hyperthyroidism) is described on the Mayo Clinic's website as follows:

Graves' disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. It occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland and causes it to overproduce the hormone called thyroxine. This abnormal immune response can also affect the tissue behind your eyes as well as your skin, usually on your lower legs and feet.

When you have too much thyroid hormone in your system, your body's metabolism rate can increase by 60 percent to 100 percent because thyroxine regulates your cells' metabolism. A higher metabolism can lead to a number of health problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or anxiety.

Graves' disease is rarely life-threatening. Although it may develop at any age and in either men or women, Graves' disease is more common in women and usually begins after age 20. The disorder is uncommon, affecting about five in every 10,000 people in the United States.

There's no way to stop your immune system from attacking the thyroid gland, but treatments can decrease the production of thyroxine.

(Click here for more information about hyperthyroidism).

”We think he is going to be okay,” Holmgren continued. “It is very treatable and he just needs some time now to get strong again. He took a series of tests early, and he can’t take those same tests right away again. He has to give the medicine some time before they can do the tests again.”

Holmgren also preached caution in how Engram’s condition is reported – judging from what has been discovered so far, the nature of the thyroid problem isn’t catastrophic by any means. “I want to make myself very clear on this,” Holmgren continued. “He has a thyroid condition. We don’t know the extent of it, but every indication I’m getting is that he’s on medication. After he goes through the series of meds, he should be okay, get his energy back, and everything is going to be fine. It’s not an unusual thing. This is not a rare type of thing. This happens to people.

”Please don’t make it anymore than that, because it’s not. He is missing time, which bothers me because he’s a good player. Bobby Engram will be back as soon as he can possibly be back. How long it’s going to be, I don’t think it’s going to be real long. That’s the feeling I’m getting, but I couldn’t give you an exact time. It’s nothing rare. It’s nothing off the charts.”

With Engram out, Seattle's super-deep receiver corps will have a different look. Nate Burleson will most likely spend a great deal of time in the slot, and D.J. Hackett, the exciting young receiver who had been inactive since the trade that brought Deion Branch to Seattle from New England in early September, will find his way back into the rotation. Hackett has been the odd man out, but that doesn’t mean that his ability to stretch the field has been overlooked. “He’s going to be up and have a chance to play a little bit. He’s excited about it. How he fits in, I’m not going to go into great detail about that.”

Hackett was dominant in the Seahawks’ preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders, drawing two pass interference penalties and catching seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Branch was brought in, and Seattle's 2007 first-round pick given away, for his ability to add to the offense in key situations. Branch will start against St. Louis, and with the Rams holding a half-game lead in the NFC West over the Seahawks, this game would certainly qualify as important. “He’s going to start at split end,” Holmgren said of his newest receiver. “He looks good. He had a good week at practice. Every week he’s been with us he’s learned more, and feels more comfortable. It’s time we stuck him in there.”

Returning to the offense after a training camp knee injury is tight end Jerramy Stevens, the man who holds many of Holmgren’s offensive dreams in his hands with his speed, size and agility. 6’7” tight ends who can run like wideouts aren’t exactly common – and the new generation of elite players at the position is a fraternity Stevens should have joined long ago. This game could be the first step. “He’s had a good week of practice. Now I’ve go talk to him, see how it feels. I think he’s going to be fine. My feeling is that he’s going to be out there, but I still have to talk to him and the training staff a little bit more.”

Stevens might have a tougher go than one might think – though the Rams’ pass defense is far from league-leading, they rank first in the league in covering tight ends through five weeks, according to the proprietary stats put together by Football Outsiders.

Where St. Louis’ defense really excels is in its opportunism – the Rams lead the NFL in turnover ratio at +12, a number aided greatly by quarterback Marc Bulger’s interception-free season. Holmgren appreciates the magnitude of this feat. “Rarely do you maintain that pace throughout the season, but it does come in clumps. I think it’s contagious. That certainly helped us in our start (in 2005), and it has helped St. Louis.

”We know they’re an opportunistic defense, and they haven’t turned the ball over, and Bulger hasn’t thrown an interception. It’s going good for them right now that way. Over the years it seems like it comes in spurts, but it absolutely helps you win. That’s a very telling statistic.”

Holmgren finished with a few thoughts about the importance if this game, and the importance of Seattle's contests with the Rams over the last few seasons – especially the 37-31 win at St. Louis last year that turned the Seahawks’ season around. “Last year, we were 2-2 and played them back in St. Louis, and this year we’re 3-1 playing them back there. I don’t know if they spit out that computer that way every year now, because of the division situation. It’s an important game. It always will be. I think we have a real healthy rivalry with the Rams.

“Either the Rams or the Seahawks have won the division the last few years. It’s a tough place to play, just like Qwest is a tough place to play for a visitor. A lot of good stuff for this game, but yes, it seems to be kind of a measuring stick.”

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. He also writes the weekly "Manic Monday" feature for FoxSports.com. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.

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