Seahawks LB Tatupu will be ready for opener

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks finally have some good injury news.

Lofa Tatupu has a bone bruise in his right knee, and coach Mike Holmgren said Wednesday the Pro Bowl linebacker will be fine for the season opener Sept. 7 at Buffalo.

Tatupu, a Pro Bowler for each of his first three seasons, reportedly had crutches near his locker in San Diego on Monday night after injuring his knee in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Chargers.

That raised fears of a more serious injury for the leader of a defense that is returning all 11 starters.

When asked if he was relieved Tatupu isn't hurt more seriously, coach Mike Holmgren said, "Yeah. How about you?"

Tatupu waved off reporters in the locker room after practice.

"He's very important to this football team," Holmgren said. "In preseason, they have to play and get ready to go, but you just kind of hold your breath all the time. Last week, there were some really good players that got hurt (around the NFL) and you just hope it doesn't happen to you."

Except it's already been happening for months to Seattle.

Tatupu didn't practice Wednesday. He joined Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (tight back), top wide receivers Bobby Engram (broken shoulder) and Deion Branch (reconstructive knee surgery), starting right tackle Sean Locklear (sprained knee) and No. 3 quarterback Charlie Frye (bruised knee) in the training room.

All except Frye will miss Friday's preseason finale against Oakland. Frye may be available, but backup quarterback Seneca Wallace will start and No. 4 quarterback Dalton Bell will also play. The Seahawks didn't want to play Wallace in San Diego because he was coming off a groin injury, but had to put him in once Frye got hurt late.

"Oh, I was surprised. I didn't know what was going on," said Wallace, who threw an interception while trying to rally Seattle from an eventual 18-17 loss to the Chargers.

The Seahawks don't want to risk Wallace to injury in the final preseason game, so he may not play much and could hand the ball off often. They are trying to get him to play receiver more this season, provided Frye is fully healthy next month.

Seattle may need Wallace at receiver. Engram, who set a team record with 94 catches last season, may not be back until October and Branch will not test his knee in a practice until just before the opener. Branch could begin the season on an inactive list. When the Seahawks fly to Buffalo late next week, the former Super Bowl MVP will be seven months into a rehabilitation that often takes a year or more.

Wallace caught two passes during the 2007 regular season and one each in the playoffs at the end of the '05 and '06 seasons. He believes his receiving and maybe even kick returning roles will be increasing because Frye has proven capable of running the offense while playing almost all of the past two exhibition games.

"I'm excited about it," said Wallace, Hasselbeck's understudy for four seasons.

Also Wednesday, Seattle brought back 15-year veteran free agent long snapper Jeff Robinson, the last of three snappers the team used for kicks last season. Just like he was last December, the 38-year-old Robinson was home in Seattle with his wife, caring for 16-month-old daughter May Louise and working at the couple's health-and-wellness business when the Seahawks called Tuesday.

No training camp. No living in college dorms with teammates. Just sign, play one preseason game and snap in the regular season for the four-time defending NFC West champions.

"What a gig he's got," Holmgren said, chuckling.

Robinson replaces Tim Lindsey on the roster and has the job thought to be rookie sixth-round draft pick Tyler Schmitt's. Schmitt, the first player listed as a snapper ever drafted by Seattle, is on injured reserve with a back injury Holmgren termed severe -- and one that wasn't detected in pre-draft medical evaluations.

"We wouldn't have done it had we known," the 60-year-old Holmgren said of drafting Schmitt. "I mean, it's pretty bad. He's a young man, and he's got a back like mine."

Copyright 2008 by The Associate Press

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