RENTON, Wash. -- Mike Holmgren's hopes of avoiding the second 1-5 start of his 17-year coaching career rest upon a backup quarterback who has a sore leg and will make his first start in two years.
Seattle's coach confirmed Friday that Seneca Wallace will start Sunday night at Tampa Bay (4-2). This week's practices proved Wallace's five-week-old calf injury has healed enough for him to replace Charlie Frye, the third-stringer who was skittish and ineffective in last week's loss to Green Bay.
"He looked OK. More importantly, he feels OK," a "relieved" Holmgren said of Wallace. "It's going to be his ballgame -- unless something happens in the next two days."
With these Seahawks, the caveat is necessary.
Matt Hasselbeck will not even make Saturday's trip to Florida. The three-time Pro Bowl passer is continuing core strengthening exercises in his back for a bulging disk, which is pressing on a nerve and weakening his hyperextended right knee. Hasselbeck is out indefinitely.
Friday brought news that receiver Billy McMullen sustained a compound fracture of the pinkie on his right hand in practice the previous day and will be out a while. McMullen is the seventh Seahawk at that position to get hurt this season.
Deion Branch is questionable with a bruised heel, but his side work with a trainer on Friday was the first time he's been on the field in weeks. He will make the trip. Holmgren is holding out hope Branch will play his second game since reconstructive knee surgery in February.
Jordan Kent, signed off the practice squad last week, will be active to give Seattle four healthy -- if not proven -- wide receivers against the Buccaneers.
He will join Bobby Engram, who returned from a broken shoulder two games ago and leads the team with eight catches; Koren Robinson, who made his season debut last week after having a sore knee; and Keary Colbert, who has three receptions in three games since Seattle acquired him in trade from Denver last month.
"What can you say that hasn't already been said?" Holmgren asked about his wide receiver saga, while laughing instead of crying.
Wallace may be facing rust and well as pain in his calf. This will be his first start since Nov. 19, 2006; he went 2-2 while Hasselbeck missed four games that season with a knee injury. The Seahawks' fourth-round draft choice in 2003 didn't even play much this preseason because Holmgren wanted Frye to get a better grasp of the offense in game situations.
"It's different, being out a little bit," the soft-spoken, even-keeled Wallace said. "But I've been here a while."
Holmgren said he felt more comfortable calling all the team's plays with Wallace. Frye arrived in a trade from Cleveland 13 months ago.
The Seahawks will make another lineup change in search of a spark. Speedy Darryl Tapp will start at defensive end instead of Lawrence Jackson, the first-round draft choice. Tapp tied a team record with four sacks in a game last season against St. Louis while playing with a cast over a hand he broke early in the game.
Jackson had two sacks in five starts. Those came in Week 2 against San Francisco when quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan ran away from the pocket into the rookie from Southern California.
"I know there are things I need to get better on," Jackson said. "This is by no means a wake-up call, to me. I'm my own worst critic."
On offense, Holmgren said usual first-teamer Sean Locklear will start at right tackle, but that Ray Willis will alternate with him. Willis performed well while Locklear missed the first three games with a sprained knee.
Through all the changes, injuries and losses, offensive coordinator Gil Haskell thinks his four-time defending NFC West champions could pull off a surprise against an aggressive Buccaneers defense. Seattle has won seven of the eight meetings with Tampa Bay.
"This is a huge game," Haskell said. "They think they can kick us pretty good. I think we can do it."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press