Carroll switches things around to jump-start skidding Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. -- The last time Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lost consecutive games was his first season at USC -- nine years ago.

It's not something he's accustomed to facing.

"Well, I'm not sleeping as well as I like, and I'm just racking my brain, competing to figure out what I can do to help. Like I said, that's what my job is," Carroll said. "How am I taking it? I'm OK about taking it; I'm just anxious about fixing it and helping everybody see what we can do better and move in the right direction."

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The Seahawks' coach at least received some good news Wednesday: quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been cleared to return to practice following his concussion two weeks ago against Oakland. Hasselbeck was a full participant in practice and is expected to start Sunday at Arizona.

Seattle also welcomed back defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, also a full participant in practice after missing the past four games with a calf injury.

Although there are injuries to other players on Seattle's defensive line, the Seahawks defense has fallen from one of the top run-stopping units in the league early in the season, when Mebane was healthy, to 19th in the league this week after giving up 197 yards rushing in a 41-7 loss Sunday to the visiting New York Giants.

Putting all of the drop on Mebane's injury isn't completely fair, but his absence certainly was noticed.

"It's been a lesson learned. I never really missed four games just playing in my entire career, period," Mebane said. "Things like this happen, so I think it was just a test for me, test me if I was going to give up or just keep striving."

The returns of Mebane and Hasselbeck are critical for a team reeling at the midpoint of the season, having been outscored, 74-10, the previous two weeks in losses at Oakland and to the Giants.

The excitement surrounding Carroll's first season back in the NFL peaked three weeks ago when the Seahawks beat Arizona, 22-10, at home and moved to 4-2, clear leaders of the NFC West. It was just the third time since the start of the 2008 season that Seattle won back-to-back games.

Now injuries and deflating routs have brought Seattle crashing down. The last time Carroll lost back-to-back games was Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, 2001, in his first season as USC's coach -- losses to Stanford (21-16) and Washington (27-24).

Carroll went to the extreme of engaging his players in "musical chairs" during their meetings Wednesday morning, forcing them to find a different seat than normal for their weekly meetings.

The idea: marking the start of the second half of the season with something new.

"It's just something that happens every now and then. You need to look at things new," Carroll said. "So, symbolically, that's something we've done."

Rookie left tackle Russell Okung was a limited participant in practice Wednesday. He took part in individual drills.

Okung has missed the past two games with a high-ankle sprain, and he has missed five of Seattle's eight games. Another rookie, safety Earl Thomas, has played the equivalent of an entire college season, with four preseason and eight regular-season games.

Carroll is in a similar spot after nine seasons at USC. He said the typical wall rookies hit about the midway point of the NFL season has been addressed.

"There's some learning, some first-time experiences for those guys. To me, the more games the better," Carroll said. "So it's fine with me, but I know with the young players this is a one-time experience when you say, 'Oh, I've got another dozen games left on the schedule here, geez.' They're starting all over again. So it's a big challenge for those guys."

Notes: QB J.P. Losman, a former first-round pick and starter in Buffalo who was cut at the end of training camp, re-signed Wednesday with the Seahawks, a day after Zac Robinson was released and signed by Detroit. ... Seattle also re-signed C Chris White and signed S Josh Pinkard, OT Breno Giacomini and WR Antonio Robinson to the practice squad.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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