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Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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"We're taking it slow," says Holmgren

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — Vacation time is over for Mike Holmgren.

The Seahawks' coach was one of the centers of attention at last week's NFL owners' meetings in Florida, talking to reporters about his coaching future, the loss of guard Steve Hutchinson, the use of provisions in offer sheets for restricted free agents, and the officiating fallout from the Super Bowl. And then it was off to an amusement park with his wife, Kathy, for some fun.

On Tuesday, though, it was back to answering reporters' questions as Holmgren — looking relaxed in a citrus-colored shirt — had more to say about his future, the contracts and more in a session with local media.

Regarding his future, Holmgren remained guarded. He has one year left on the eight-year contract he signed to coach the Seahawks in 1999.

"We're just taking it slow," he said. "I don't want it to be a distraction, and it shouldn't be. I'm still working through some stuff. This is not going to go on forever. I should have things cleared up in a couple or three weeks in my own mind, and then let them know, and we go on from there. But I appreciate how they're [the front office is] handling it. I've got to think through some stuff because when I commit, I commit.

"I love being on the field with the players. I think I'll always love that," Holmgren added.

On the poison pills, or contract language, that led to the Seahawks not matching the Minnesota Vikings' offer for Hutchinson and the Seahawks' decision to deploy provisions of their own to spirit wide receiver Nate Burleson away from Minnesota:

"It absolutely should go away," Holmgren said. "The league, if they don't step in and do something about it, then there's a chance someone would do it again."

Holmgren added that neither he nor team president Tim Ruskell likes the idea of having to put such language in contracts and that he was surprised that the league's special master ruled against the Seahawks in the Hutchinson case.

Ruskell said Tuesday that the matter was between the Seahawks and Vikings and was not something Seattle would do to any other team.

"It's unfortunate," Ruskell said. "The league will take care of it now, I think."

Also Tuesday, Holmgren said he expects to have safety Ken Hamlin available for the team's first minicamp next month.

It would be Hamlin's first practice time since he suffered head injuries in a fight outside a Seattle night club last October.

"I have to talk to our doctors and see," Holmgren said. "He is going to participate, it's my understanding, in our minicamps. He's gotten the OK to do that. So that's the first step. I have my fingers crossed."

The Seahawks have been fairly active in free agency, and Holmgren addressed the additions of offensive lineman Tom Ashworth and linebacker Julian Peterson.

On replacing Hutchinson at left guard and Ashworth's role:

"We'll move [Floyd] Womack in there right away," Holmgren said, adding that the line remains the same beyond that, for now, with Walter Jones at left tackle, Robbie Tobeck at center, Chris Gray at right guard and Sean Locklear at right tackle.

"I have to see how that works," Holmgren said of how he could use Ashworth, who has played most of his career at right tackle. "We've talked, and he's a good lineman. To automatically say that guy will be a guard, I think that's doing him an injustice. Our line was one of our strengths last year, certainly, and it should be again. It's important for Womack to stay healthy. If he can stay healthy and play a full season, you'll really see what a great lineman he can be.

"We're going to play our five best," Holmgren added. "How that comes down, we don't know yet."

With regard to Peterson, Holmgren said he was excited to have the former San Francisco 49ers linebacker on board.

"He's a guy that every time we've played against him, we've had to game plan for," Holmgren said. "He has had great years. He's the real deal. I just want him to come in and have fun and make our defense better, which I think he will."

The team's next project is to prepare for the draft, which is about three weeks away. Holmgren said he, Ruskell, the team's college scouts and the position coaches will meet today to formulate a plan.

The Seahawks figure to look at defense first, but with the idea that they'll choose the best player available according to their draft board.

"I always say it's going to be a defensive draft, and then we draft [Chris] Spencer or we draft Hutchinson or we draft [Shaun] Alexander," Holmgren said. "But we always go in thinking, the last few years, that we want to improve our defense.

"But I think we're all committed to take the best guy up there. It has worked for us pretty well over the last few years. If you had a wish list, you go for defensive guys first."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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