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Originally published Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks' T.J. Duckett runs for tough, short yards

T.J. Duckett, a forgotten man at running back in Week One, has emerged as the Seahawks' best short-yardage running back and is coming off an effective performance against St. Louis.

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — T.J. Duckett has always been the short-yardage guy. That comes with the job as a 6-foot, 254-pound bruiser running back.

But everywhere he's played before Seattle, Duckett was used for more than just a couple of yards or a goal-line situation. He ran for 779 yards as an Atlanta Falcon in 2003.

This season as a Seahawk, Duckett found himself on the bench in Week One, there being no place for him with Julius Jones and Maurice Morris alternating as the featured backs and Leonard Weaver available for short yardage. But Morris sprained a knee during the Buffalo game, and that paved the way for Duckett.

Duckett showed he was more than just a short-yardage runner against St. Louis. He gained 79 yards on 19 carries as the Seahawks pounded the Rams.

"Everyone has a role, and mine is the short-yardage, goal-line guy," Duckett said. "But at the same time, I want to show I can do more than just that, if that's what I'm called to do. Hopefully I displayed a little bit, and I'll just keep building on it and just be another weapon that we have to this offense."

Duckett said he's never been on a team with such depth at running back. He said no matter who plays, anyone can do the job, and is quick to credit the offensive line for creating space for him.

"He's done a great job when we've put him in there," coach Mike Holmgren said of Duckett. "Now, let's put this in perspective. If Mo hadn't been hurt, T.J. probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunity that he got in the last ballgame. I think that's fair to say. It's not fair to him, but it's how it would've worked."

There will be decisions to make when Morris gets back to full strength. Jones has run very well and might have wrested away the starting job Morris earned when the season started. Duckett's hard running might have earned him more carries. And Weaver is another option.

Morris was limited in practice Friday and is questionable for Sunday, so it looks like Duckett will continue with his increased workload. But his bread and butter is still that one or two yards necessary to get a first down and sustain a drive, and Duckett is excelling where the Seahawks struggled in those situations last season.

"He's filling a role that we've needed," running backs coach Kasey Dunn said of Duckett. "It's kind of been his baby, coming in there and moving the chains for us. He gives us another dimension — straight downfield power."

Duckett said there was a sense that the team was waiting to see how the revamped running game, with himself, Jones, Dunn, new offensive line coaches and fullback Owen Schmitt, would play out. So far, so good.

"Everyone has pride in it," he said.

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Branch to start

Holmgren said Deion Branch will start at wide receiver Sunday, along with either Billy McMullen or Keary Colbert. The Seahawks are carrying seven wide receivers, and that number won't change this week. Holmgren said there is no roster move to be made, but will decide who will be inactive for the game.

Koren Robinson is most likely to miss the game. He didn't practice all week and just did light running on his own Friday. Michael Bumpus will continue as punt returner, it appears.

How much Branch and Bobby Engram play remains to be determined.

Note

• Game balls from the Seahawks' win over St. Louis two weeks ago went to Julius Jones on offense, Deon Grant on defense and Lance Laury for special teams.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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