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Hasselbeck back to limited practicing, unlikely to play Saturday

Matt Hasselbeck is back to practicing. Playing in preseason games can wait.

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Matt Hasselbeck is back to practicing. Playing in preseason games can wait.

The Seahawks' Pro Bowl quarterback returned to drills on Thursday for the first time since his back stiffened six days ago, but he doesn't expect to play in Saturday's exhibition game against the Chicago Bears.

Hasselbeck, who felt his back tighten after playing the first two series of last week's preseason opener at Minnesota, only did individual drills. Third-string quarterback Charlie Frye again ran the first-team offense during team drills. Frye and No. 2 passer Seneca Wallace figure to get most of the playing time Saturday.

"I've got a feeling, based on reps," Hasselbeck said about not playing against a Bears starting defense that should be better than it was during a sloppy performance last week at Kansas City. "I'd be happy for those guys to get some snaps."

Coach Mike Holmgren downplayed Hasselbeck's injury.

"He's close. It's more of an irritation now than an injury, I would say. So we're just going to play that one a little easy," Holmgren said. "But it's nothing. I would think that he could play in a game if he had to."

Hasselbeck, who set most of Seattle's passing records for a season in 2007 after surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, spent some of the day stepping in place with his knees extra high as he watched Frye run the offense.

"I'm fine. I am fine," he said. "I had a tight back earlier in the week. I probably shouldn't have said anything. The hardest part is just standing around, ironically.

"It felt tight when we landed in Minnesota -- and got worse, not better."

A key for Frye is proving to Holmgren he can run the offense, after 11 months of studying it without having many opportunities to even practice it. That would free Wallace to play receiver or return kicks this season. Holmgren has been wanting a solid No. 3 passer for years, so he could use the dynamic Wallace elsewhere without the fear of injury.

"Our thing, we've been experimenting and looking, is to feel enough confidence in Charlie's ability to do the job that I can use Seneca in other things," Holmgren said of Frye, the Cleveland Browns' starter until last September.

That experimentation has changed Frye's passing motion. The fourth-year veteran said then-quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn worked on altering his footwork soon after Frye arrived in Seattle last September.

During last season's bye week, Zorn blindfolded Frye. He then had him take deep drops and throw to receiver D.J. Hackett, who is now with Carolina.

"I was just spraying him with passes. And I could hear D.J. grunting," Frye said, laughing.

Zorn had the 6-foot-4 Frye bend his knees more in the pocket, so he could move better and more efficiently transfer his weight on throws. It's what Hasselbeck has done while going from Brett Favre's backup in Green Bay at the beginning of the decade to an elite quarterback.

"Matt's silky smooth," Frye said.

After Zorn left to become coach of the Washington Redskins following last season, Frye was out throwing passes with Hasselbeck and Wallace in the suburban Seattle snow in offseason tests of his new delivery. He said the bent knees have created a move over-the-top throwing motion, and his passes are more accurate.

"All the coaches' feedback has been, 'Man, you've really smoothed that motion out,'" Frye said.

Holmgren is among those impressed. Saturday will go a long way to show if the coach will also be relieved, relieved that he has someone else to trust besides Wallace should Hasselbeck get injured during the regular season.

"That's a hard thing to do," Holmgren said. "Coaching a guy's throwing motion -- even though some guys say they can do it -- it's hard to coach a guy who's been doing it a certain way for so long. But he is trying.

"And I'm very pleased with how he's doing."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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