Ready for Arizona: Hasselbeck health 'way better'

Nov 13, 2009 - 2:21 AM By GREGG BELL AP Sports Writer

RENTON, Wash.(AP) -- His ribs aren't fully healed. He couldn't throw 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 on Sept. 20 at San Francisco.

"Way better than last week. Way better than it's been in the last five weeks, really," the Seahawks' three-time Pro Bowl passer said Thursday after he fully participated in practice. He was limited Wednesday.

Hasselbeck confirmed coach Jim Mora's estimation that he will again be full go for Sunday's key divisional game at Arizona.

Seattle's most indispensable player threw 51 passes through the pain last weekend, and his team-record 39 completions led a rally from 17 points down to beat Detroit.

Hasselbeck, 34, broke ribs high in his back when he was hit while diving for the goal line eight weeks ago.

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.

He has completed 59 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, two interceptions and Seattle's first 300-yard passing day since 2007 while starting the Seahawks' last four games.

So yes, his health is the biggest key to Sunday's last chance to rejoin the NFC West race. Seattle (3-5) can pull within a game of the first-place Cardinals with a win, but would be three games back with seven games left if it loses.

The team's captain, one of a dozen starters to miss at least a game due to injury for Seattle, wants his teammates considering this as the biggest game of the season.

It's really the biggest in two years, given the Seahawks were 4-12 last season. They 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."

The Cardinals figure to again blitz Hasselbeck relentlessly. They sacked him five times while routing the Seahawks 27-3 in Seattle last month. They also are likely to crowd the line of scrimmage and dare Hasselbeck to prove he can throw long with his shoulder.

Because the Seahawks' running game - which gained a franchise-low 14 yards in that first meeting - is ranked 30th in the league, Seattle has recently been using 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 was also because it hurt Hasselbeck too much to throw long.

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