RENTON, Wash. -- His ribs aren't fully healed. He couldn't heave deep passes last week, and he often threw almost sidearm because his shoulder ached.
Yet Matt Hasselbeck says his health is "the best it's been" since he fractured ribs during a Sept. 20 game at San Francisco.
Hasselbeck confirmed Seahawks coach Jim Mora's estimation that the quarterback again will be full go for Sunday's NFC West showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.
Hasselbeck broke ribs high in his back when he was hit while diving for the goal line eight weeks ago against the 49ers. He returned after two games to play before the ribs were healed, and needed painkilling injections to do so. He said doctors told him the ribs would need a full six weeks to heal -- and that was before he took hard shots in losses to the Cardinals and at Dallas in consecutive games around Seattle's bye week.
Hasselbeck has completed 59 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, two interceptions and the Seahawks' first 300-yard passing day since 2007 while starting the last four games.
So yes, the quarterback's health is the biggest key to Sunday's last chance to rejoin the NFC West race. Seattle (3-5) can pull within one game of first-place Arizona with a win but would be three games back with seven games remaining if it loses.
Hasselbeck, one of 12 Seahawks starters to miss at least one game because of injury this season, wants his teammates to consider this the biggest game of the season, but it's really the biggest in two years, given that Seattle was 4-12 last season. The Seahawks fell out of contention early and meekly relinquished their four-year reign over the division.
"It needs to be known that this game is way more important, because of how we shot ourselves in the foot earlier in the season, and because of the adversity we faced earlier in the season," Hasselbeck said. "We really have faced our fair share of adversity already. So because of that ... we're got a game here that we've basically got to win."
Because the Seahawks' running game -- which gained a franchise-low 14 yards in that first meeting -- is ranked 30th in the NFL, they recently have used more screen passes in an attempt to slow down pass rushes and give the besieged Hasselbeck some relief.
"You've got to run the ball, or do things like running the ball," Hasselbeck said in discussing Arizona's pressure.
Last week, Hasselbeck threw short to a running back 21 times, though Mora and his quarterback said that also was because it hurt Hasselbeck too much to throw long.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press