Seahawks may get Branch back Sunday; Hasselbeck improving

RENTON, Wash. -- Finally, some good injury news for the battered Seahawks.

Wide receiver Deion Branch practiced with the first-team offense and has a chance to play Sunday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was finally back on the practice field, too, putting him back on track to play next week.

"Knock on wood," coach Mike Holmgren said after Friday's practice, trying to end weeks of false hopes about getting back injured starters.

Hasselbeck did not make the trip later in the day to Miami for Sunday's game against the Dolphins. Backup Seneca Wallace will make his fourth consecutive start.

Seattle (2-6), which has had 14 starters miss at least one game this season because of injury, desperately needs its three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Its passing offense is ranked last in the league at just 141.3 yards per game.

Branch's work was his first on a field in more than a month. It was so encouraging Holmgren said the former Super Bowl MVP has a chance to play against Miami. Branch has played just one half in one game since January following reconstructive knee surgery and a bruised heel.

"We still have to see. What can't happen is you put someone down, activate Deion and then after 10 plays he comes up and goes, 'Coach, I can't go.' That won't work very well," Holmgren said, recalling Branch's brief appearance in a loss on Oct. 5 at the New York Giants.

Hasselbeck ran the scout-team offense during seven-on-seven drills a day after sweating through an extensive test inside the training room of his hyperextended knee and the bulging disk in his back. He then stayed after practice to throw to practice-squad receivers Michael Bumpus and Courtney Taylor while a trainer watched closely.

He hasn't played since Oct. 5, but is now expected to practice with the first team next week and could start at home against first-place Arizona on Nov. 16.

"His big test was (Thursday), and he came through it feeling good, which allowed him to do what he did today," Holmgren said of his three-time Pro Bowl passer. "He wanted to do some more, but they are kind of easing him into it.

"He's cleared to practice, and if he doesn't have any setbacks (doctors) will clear him to play in the ballgame (next week). That's how I think they are going to approach it."

Starting right guard Floyd Womack returned after missing two days with a bruised foot. He is listed as questionable, but Holmgren said Womack will start at Miami.

So will linebacker Lofa Tatupu (groin) and fullback Leonard Weaver (foot). Both missed last week's loss to Philadelphia.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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