Seahawks Assemble DB Skeleton Crew

The Seahawks placed cornerbacks Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams on injured reserve Tuesday, ending their seasons. The moves had been expected, but they were hard to take for a team already missing starting corner Marcus Trufant.

Seattle's defensive staff is preparing a game plan around newly signed corners who have not yet shown what they can do. Rich Gardner, signed last week, was inactive in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay. Pete Hunter, signed Tuesday, is a former Cowboys draft choice who hasn't played in the league this season.

The team also signed veteran free safety John Howell, but his contributions will most likely be on special teams. The Seahawks have another option in practice-squad corner Gerard Ross. He has been with the team all season, but there's no compelling reason to sign him to the active roster this early in the week.

Coaches will watch Gardner, Hunter, Howell and Ross in practice before determining for sure which players will play which roles in the wild-card game against Dallas on Saturday.

"We have to get a feel for Pete Hunter and don't forget that Gerard Ross is in that mix," defensive coordinator John Marshall said. "It's a tough situation that Mike (Holmgren) and Tim (Ruskell) and the defensive staff, we're going to have to come up with decisions of who is going to be where.

"You have to do that on a daily basis, what you see."

Hunter was living near the Cowboys' facility when the Seahawks called him Monday. They brought him in for a workout Tuesday morning and put him on the practice field that afternoon. He could be the nickel corner against his former team. Hunter is 6-feet-2 and 208 pounds, giving Seattle another big body to send at Terrell Owens.

"He's got good size and his footwork is good," Marshall said. "He's in shape. He has veteran knowledge of the game. He has started in the league and played in a lot of other games.

"In his workout, he moved around real well. His redirection, his plant and drive, we felt that was what we needed."

Babineaux and rookie Kelly Jennings will start against the Cowboys. Babineaux started the final four games at corner last season. He started much of this season at strong safety. His future is at safety, but he's versatile enough to play the corner in a pinch. He also has the size to match up with bigger receivers.

"He's a good, physical player," Marshall said. "He's smart. He can handle that and he's going to be a fine safety. But we're very happy he can handle the corner position too."

Babineaux's late interception of Drew Bledsoe helped Seattle score a dramatic victory over the Cowboys last season. Jennings was starting for the University of Miami at the time. He's a smaller corner with good speed and technique. He had been playing left corner in the nickel defense, with Herndon moving to the inside corner position.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck is not wearing his knee brace in practice, but the team has him wear it in games. Hasselbeck missed four games to a sprained MCL earlier in the season. The knee has healed enough for Hasselbeck to pick up yards with the occasional scramble. Wearing the brace in games gives him some extra protection.

--RB Shaun Alexander has shown he can carry the ball 30 or even 40 times in a game without wearing down. There were some concerns upon Alexander's return from a broken foot. Those concerns have been put to rest emphatically. What Seattle needs is for Alexander to run with the determination he showed against San Diego two weeks ago.

--FB Mack Strong has finished the season strong, helping Seattle rediscover its running game. Strong is best when he's blocking and not asked to catch so many passes.

--WR Nate Burleson is getting fewer snaps in the offense now that Bobby Engram is back from a thyroid condition. Burleson remains the kick returner and punt returner. He has played well in those roles.

--TE Jerramy Stevens caught 11 passes in the final three regular-season games. The team has used more two-receiver sets with a tight end in recent weeks. That means more opportunities for Stevens.

--WR Deion Branch is catching the ball much better after suffering from four drops against San Diego two weeks ago. He took the blame for the loss to the Chargers. Given Branch's mental makeup, he is expected to continue catching the ball well.

--WR Darrell Jackson is not practicing this week and might not play against the Cowboys on Saturday. He has a turf-toe injury that could be nagging. A timetable for his return is not known.

--WR D.J. Hackett did not practice Tuesday. He suffered what the team called a groin injury against Tampa Bay last week. Hackett is expected to play against the Cowboys on Saturday.

--LB Julian Peterson collected his 10th sack of the season in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay. That is a career high. The crowd noise at Qwest Field will help him get off the ball quickly in the wild-card game against Dallas on Saturday.

--SS Jordan Babineaux is back in the starting lineup at cornerback because of injuries. Babineaux started at corner in the final four games of the 2005 season.

--CB Kelly Herndon landed on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury suffered in the regular-season finale. He should be ready for training camp next season.


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