Branch Might Be Back

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said on Monday that wide receiver Deion Branch, who has missed the last two games with a strained calf, is expected to play against the Green Bay Packers in Saturday's divisional playoff game.

Branch, the team's starting flanker, and D.J. Hackett, the starting split end, have been together for less than two games the entire season. Hackett was plagued by a high ankle sprain on two separate occasions, while Branch was out with a calf injury at the end of the season, and out with a mid-foot sprain earlier in the season.

In that time together, the duo had 22 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

Branch said he wanted to play against the Washington Redskins in Seattle's wild-card victory last Saturday, but Holmgren decided to sit him because nobody led him to believe that Branch could last the entire game.

Because Branch is listed as 5-9 (and is closer to 5-7) and 192 pounds, Holmgren said it would not be wise to force Branch to play at half speed to protect the injury, or risk having him reinjure it because he is not 100 percent.

Holmgren said Branch will practice lightly this week, then be available to Matt Hasselbeck against the league's 12th-ranked pass defense.

"It brings us a lot of experience, with his quickness and his hands," Holmgren said. "He is an excellent receiver. When he comes back, you get a really high-caliber player back in your lineup."

When Branch comes back, it means that Bobby Engram, the team's leading receiver, will slide permanently into the slot as the third receiver. Engram has been moving between flanker and the slot in Branch's absence. It also means that Nate Burleson, who has the most receiving touchdowns on the team, will be the fourth receiver, rather than second-year man Ben Obomanu.

"To have all four of them active at one time, will be really special," Holmgren said. "When we put that out there, we have the ability to be fairly potent in the passing game. We haven't had that all year long so I am hopeful."


--Holmgren said he interviewed with five other teams before taking the Green Bay job in 1992. The other jobs he interviewed for were filled by Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh, Sam Wyche in Tampa Bay, Ted Marchibroda in Indianapolis, Bobby Ross in San Diego and Chuck Knox with the Rams. The reason Holmgren took the Packers job was "there was some appeal to building something."

--When Holmgren was told that Matt Hasselbeck opened Saturday's postgame press conference by saying, "We want the ball and we're gonna score," a reference to the overtime loss in 2004 when Hasselbeck said the same thing, Holmgren quipped, "Matt is the kind of person, if you ask him what time it is he'll tell you how the watch was made."

--DE Patrick Kerney on Monday tied for second place, with Albert Haynesworth, for defensive player of the year, which was won by Colts safety Bob Sanders. Kerney, second in the league with 14.5 sacks, had four of the 50 votes.


--WR Deion Branch is expected to practice this week and should play against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck got treatment on his sore wrist and a bruised thigh that he suffered when he was hit in Saturday's game but will play on Saturday.
--DT Rocky Bernard may have a lightened practice week to rest a sore groin but will play Saturday.
--OT Walter Jones may not practice as much this week to rest sore shoulders but will play Saturday.
--RB Leonard Weaver's 17-yard touchdown run on Saturday was the longest postseason touchdown run in team history.



PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Matt Hasselbeck was off, completing 20 of 32 passes for 229 yards, but throwing two interceptions, both to second-year safety LaRon Landry. Four of Hasselbeck's throws were easy tosses that either were off target or short. He did throw a fourth-quarter touchdown to D.J. Hackett that regained the lead for good.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Shaun Alexander, Leonard Weaver and Mo Morris combined for 77 yards on 21 carries, but Weaver's 17-yard touchdown was the longest postseason touchdown run in franchise history. They were not dominant, with Alexander averaging 3.1 yards, but they were effective enough to keep Washington's defense off-balance.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- They gave up two touchdown passes, one to Antwaan Randle El and one to Santana Moss. But the defensive line battered Todd Collins all day and Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux both returned interceptions for touchdowns, breaking open the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The front seven limited Clinton Portis to 52 yards and a 2.6 average, forcing Collins to beat them. He couldn't, and it meant that Seattle got more time with the ball.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Punter Ryan Plackemeier put four punts inside the 20, including two inside the 5, and Josh Brown made two field goals, including a 50-yarder into the wind.

COACHING: A -- The staff did a great job designing a game plan that enabled Top Stories