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Originally published Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hawks' healing gives coaches the power of choice

When the Seahawks return from their bye, coach Mike Holmgren will come back to some familiar names in the lineup and some new questions...

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — When the Seahawks return from their bye, coach Mike Holmgren will come back to some familiar names in the lineup and some new questions about playing time.

Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Maurice Morris are expected to be ready to play on Oct. 5 on the road against the New York Giants; Sean Locklear returned in a limited role in Sunday's victory over St. Louis.

So after having so few options for the second and third games of the injury-riddled season, Seattle's coaches have more choices when deciding which 45 players will be active for the Seahawks next game.

"To look forward to having the whole group there is good," Holmgren said at his news conference Monday. "We just got out of a meeting talking about how difficult it is going to be to choose the de-actives. Now think about that for a second."

Actually, Seattle has two weeks to think about it. The Seahawks do not play this week and though the players will have morning workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, they will be more like offseason training sessions than a typical NFL workweek.

It's a welcome break after the Seahawks have spent the past two weeks scrambling to fill voids at wide receiver. One week they signed Billy McMullen and Samie Parker, the next they traded for Keary Colbert and brought back Koren Robinson. The return of Engram and Branch gives Holmgren something he hasn't had at wide receiver these past two weeks: options.

"We're going to have a little bit of a decision at wide receiver, of all places, probably when we come back," Holmgren said. "It will be interesting how Branch and Engram, how they feel. But right now, the medical people are telling me they're probably good to go."

Locklear is back, too. He was on the field for two goal-line plays Sunday against San Francisco, checking in as an eligible receiver for a jumbo set. Locklear started the past three seasons at right tackle, but Holmgren also singled out the play of Ray Willis — who started in Locklear's absence — making it clear there is a decision that must be made.

"[Ray] brings a real physical presence to the right side of the line," Holmgren said. "But Lock, he was there for a long time. He's a good right tackle, a very good pass blocker."

Then throw in Floyd Womack, the right guard whose hamstring tightened up toward the end of Sunday's game against St. Louis. Womack played well the past two weeks, but Willis played some guard in practice last year, and Holmgren said that the right side of the line will be drawn out of the trio of Womack, Locklear and Willis.

"You now have three players for two positions," Holmgren said. "Right now I can't tell you how we're going to do that."

Even after Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett carried Seattle's rushing game to its highest single-game total in more than two years, there is the question of just who will carry the ball — and how many times — once Morris comes back.

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Will Morris return as a co-headliner in Seattle's ground game, or did Jones establish himself as the lead back by running for 267 yards over the past two games?

"I'm not prepared to answer it right now," Holmgren said. "I've got a week to think about it. Mo, before his getting injured, was playing well, making plays and making good runs and doing fine."

And what about Duckett, who gained 79 yards Sunday against St. Louis, scored two touchdowns and showed he might be more than a short-yardage back?

"There is probably a place for Duckett," Holmgren said. "Late in the game, some time, there's a place now. And he earned that [Sunday]."

Just how that gets mixed in the backfield rotation remains to be seen.

"How many snaps and percentages, I don't know," Holmgren said. "Sometimes, it will just have to be a gut feeling."

Those choices will be a welcome change after two weeks in which circumstances and injuries dictated so many of Seattle's decisions on offense.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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