Alexander likely out again, Branch could be in as Seahawks

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Shaun Alexander will not play for the Seattle Seahawks until he's healthy enough to practice full time.

"We had a talk, and I told him until he can practice the whole week, until he can have a normal week of practice I'm not going to put him on the field," coach Mike Holmgren said after Friday's practice that Alexander watched in sweats.

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"I tried to explain that running backs -- you need to be able to do what you do, and if you're worried about an injury or something is sore and you can't make your cuts, you're really open to more injury. I'm not going to put him on the field until he can do what he does. He appreciated that."

Holmgren wouldn't officially say Alexander is "out" for Sunday's game against Chicago, but did say that backup Maurice Morris would get his second straight start. Morris had 28 carries for 87 yards in Seattle's 24-0 win over San Francisco last Monday.

Alexander has been hampered all season by a broken left wrist, and added a twisted left knee and ankle to the equation two weeks ago against Cleveland. His injuries have only magnified Seattle's ineffective running game that has struggled all season and enters this week ranked 21st in the league at just 95 yards per game.

That led Holmgren last week to declare the Seahawks were becoming more pass oriented. They were early against San Francisco, throwing 27 times in the first half, before turning to Morris and the run in the fourth quarter.

Alexander was inactive against the 49ers -- the first game he's missed this season despite the wrist injury -- and is likely headed for the list again this week.

"Shaun's close. I think he is," Holmgren said. "Most of the athletes I've ever coached, they want to play, they'll even lie to you a little bit about how they feel. But I have to see it. With wide receivers and running back you have to see them do stuff and then you can put them out there."

Under those conditions, it's possible wide receiver Deion Branch will make his return on Sunday. Branch has been out since he sprained his right foot in the Seahawks' loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 7.

Branch practiced without limitation this week, but Holmgren wouldn't go so far as to proclaim that Branch or linebacker Leroy Hill would play against the Bears.

"The question is with Hill, or any of the guys, Branch, is see how they are the next day," Holmgren said. "So we'll see tomorrow."

Hill thinks there is no decision to make. He missed last week's game with a strained right hamstring, but went through a full practice on Friday and expects to play.

"I've been working it out pretty good, and testing it out and it feels pretty good," Hill said. "It's 100 percent better from last week. Not all the way, but it's enough that I can get back out on the field and do my job."

Starting defensive end Darryl Tapp didn't practice on Friday with what Holmgren characterized as a stinger, but expected Tapp to play on Sunday. Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, bothered by a groin injury, participated in some of the practice and should be available Sunday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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