Holmgren addresses stretch run

It's a big week for the Seahawks and head coach Mike Holmgren knows it. His team plays the Arizona Cardinals for the second time this year and can wrap up the NFC West with a win this week. Seattle's head man addressed the media on Wednesday and talked about some injured players on the mend, his rookies and how the team can't have a let down for the rest of the season.

"Everyone knows it's a very, very important game," Holmgren told the assembled media after practice Wednesday. "We started practices this morning on a real high note and hopefully it continues. As far as the injury situation, we are making some roster moves this week.

"A couple of them will probably be finalized this afternoon. So I'm not ready to talk about them right now. I mentioned the possibility of David Kirtman coming up to the active roster, but that's kind of dependent on how Mack handles the week. So that will probably be a later-in-the-week decision."

On the injury/illness front, Holmgren addressed a couple of players that are experienced veterans who are getting closer to seeing playing time again.

"I saw Robbie Tobeck today, and he looks good," Holmgren noted. "He's in the building. He starts his rehab program and his weight is down. He's probably about 15 pounds down. So he has to regain some of that. But the test, as far as I know, on the actual infection, that went well. So it's good to have him back.

"(Bobby) Engram, his numbers are finally where they are supposed to be. Bless his heart, you know. Now, he has to tell me how he feels. He has to in his own mind, I think, feel like he can contribute and really go like he's used to going. So there is light at the end of tunnel on that one. Now, will it be this week? That might be a little bit of a stretch. But we are going to get him back pretty soon, which is good."

Holmgren also added that Engram will be held back a bit in practice this week, but is getting closer to going full-speed. How his availability effects the receiver rotation is something on the head coach's mind, but he hasn't resolved anything yet.

"I haven't given it enough thought yet," Holmgren said. "You can't have them all up, all the receivers. So there are some decisions to make that way.

"Hackett's come in and done a nice job. He's been playing Bobby's position. But at the same time, Bobby's been an excellent player for us, and when he is healthy he will be an excellent player for us. I don't know how I am going to do that yet."

Another receiver who will see decreased time is Nate Bureleson who hasn't had the impact he expected when he signed as a free agent during the offseason. The coach said that there was no tip-toeing around the subject of Burleson's frustrations.

"He said it," Holmgren said. "I didn't have to read any body language. He just told me. He was very respectful and it was a good conversation. He just goes 'I'm disappointed but you can count on me to do anything.' It was the response that every coach longs to hear.

"I like Nate Burleson and he's a good football player. But I couldn't run the four wides all the time. It wasn't in the best interests of the football team, and so how do we do this? And to his credit, (he was) very professional about it. He's a young guy and I told him, he's going to be here a long time and so this is a long term thing for him. We didn't bring him in for one year, it wasn't one of those deals. So it will all be good. And then I really believe that has helped him."

One of the ways the Bureleson has contributed is by returning kicks and punts, including one for a crucial touchdown in the home win over St. Louis Rams.

"I said, 'This is another way to get (Burleson) on the field. Let's try it'," Holmgren said. "(Bob) Casullo was fine with it, Nate wanted to do it and then that led to the kickoff return. And really it was trying to figure out a way to get him on the field as much as anything else.

"I think because he has had success in those two areas, it's kind of ‘success breeds success' and now he's a more confident player in our passing game and that kicks over to the quarterback. They're good guys in they're willing to, what has been a nice thing to see, really, this year is the role players and how they've accepted their role when in this day and age, that's hard for athletes to do at times."

On the rookie front, Holmgren has had a play more than he would have liked, but he's been pretty happy with the production of the youngsters that have stepped in and performed well.

"You're always optimistic after the draft and you should be," Holmgren said. "Then you have to see, one, how much the guy is going to play, and then how he performs."

He also shared his thoughts on four of his top rookies...

On CB Kelly Jennings – "I think in Kelly's case, he has not been the starting corner, but he has gotten better as the season goes along, which is kind of what you expect. We haven't had to thrust him into the starting lineup like we had to do with (Marcus) Trufant as a rookie so it makes it a little easier for him. But he is playing, and doing the things we expect him to do. He's a very conscientious guy, he's a studier. He's doing fine."

On DE Darryl Tapp – "Tapp, we're getting him more snaps now. He comes in, he's a defensive end with a pass-rushing reputation, and we have two good defensive ends, and then you throw in Julian Peterson to the mix, there's three so we've had to force feed getting Darryl snaps and now he's getting more snaps and it's the right thing to do and I think time-wise it will be good to have him hit it down the stretch, too. I didn't like his little celebration at the end of his touchdown run the other night, and I told him that. Other than that, I'm very happy with him."

On P Ryan Plackemeier – "Plackemeier is a rookie punter, and that just right there makes you nervous. It's a tough job. It's a very difficult job, and those of you who have had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan, he's such a wonderful, nice young man. At times, I think he might be shocked at what I say to him. But at the risk of not shattering his confidence, there's a thin line there, in all seriousness, there's a balancing act with your kickers, particularly young guys, of encouragement, being critical and just how you do that. With Ryan, he might be the nicest kid I've ever met. He takes things very seriously, but I'll tell you what, he's a talented kid."

On G Rob Sims – "We're playing him more. He and (Floyd Womack) in practice will split time at left guard. We'll insert Sims into the game, just exactly where, I don't know when, but usually that's decided before the game starts so it's not an emotional thing. To keep him going, keep him coming, because again, he's the future of this team and he's doing fine when he's playing. At times he plays like a rookie but for the most part, he's a big, strong, aggressive guy, good lineman. And we can do this and still keep going. You don't want to play all rookies in the offensive line, that's hard. But if we can do this and give him some experience, we'll be better off for it in the long run."

On the field, Seattle faces the Cardinals, an enigmatic team that has struggled to a 3-9 season behind a sieve-like line and on the arm of a rookie quarterback, but Holmgren said this is no time for his team to let up, especially considering their poor performance against San Francisco on the road three weeks ago.

"During the season, you come in with your record better than the other team's record perhaps, or whatever happens," Holmgren said philosophically. "Or maybe they lost a player and you think it may be easier or whatever a team thinks about. Coaches don't think that way. So that's really what my main thrust in my address to the team this morning was, exactly that – if we didn't learn anything from the San Francisco game, we'll never learn anything.

"Coaches can talk about that until they are blue in the face, really. But the player has to understand that and get himself ready to play. He's the guy on the field. And while I take responsibility for getting the team ready to play, we will talk about it, remind them of it, we know what's at stake, all the things that should motivate the athlete to be at his best.

"It really comes down the individual player, all 53 guys, the individual player saying, 'OK, now here is what my approach is going to be. And here's how I am going to get myself ready. And I understand what he's saying. And let's go.'

"I was very unhappy with the San Francisco outcome, but hopefully you learn from things like that. I have a lot of confidence in these young guys to remember and learn from a situation like that. Rest assured, I have talked about it and will continue to talk about it, and then at some point, you stop. And you get ready to go and play."

Holmgren noted the Cardinals are a young team that has impressed him.

"I thought they played a fine football game against St. Louis," Holmgren said. "They looked good to me on film. They're very, very aggressive. They're a very aggressive, hit hard, physical team. That's how they play the game, and they've always created problems for us offensively because they do a lot of stuff on defense, they're all over the place."

And on offense, Holmgren said he's a bit nervous about the Cardinals' ability to run now, something they couldn't do the first time the team's faced each other in week two, a 21-10 Seattle victory.

"You always play to your strengths on offense," Holmgren noted. "They struggled early on running. Now, they got more rushing yards last week – the last two weeks. When they signed Edgerrin James, they envisioned a certain balance, and then early in the season they weren't getting that balance.

"Then they have great wide receivers. They really have good wide receivers. And they've got a lot of confidence in their young quarterback. Now, they changed coordinators, they changed signal callers a few weeks ago, so it's a little difference emphasis. But they're running the ball better now, which always creates more problems for you on defense."

Holmgren and his team will continue to prepare for their divisional showdown with the Cardinals tomorrow and Friday before traveling on Saturday to Phoenix.

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