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Originally published Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Bringing back Koren Robinson was the right move

In the postgame gloom late Sunday afternoon, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he'd never seen anything like the injury plague that has...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Sunday

St. Louis @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

In the postgame gloom late Sunday afternoon, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he'd never seen anything like the injury plague that has hit his wide receivers.

Since the team reported for its last training camp in Kirkland, it feels as if the season has been scripted by Edgar Allan Poe, like some pigskin version of the "Masque of the Red Death."

One by one the pass catchers have dropped — in preseason, in pregame warmups, at training camp and in the regular season — Bobby Engram, Ben Obomanu, Nate Burleson, Seneca Wallace, Logan Payne. Add Deion Branch, still recovering from last season's knee injury, and it has been a horror show in Seattle.

"Unprecedented," Holmgren calls it.

Now, these desperate times call for desperate measures, which is precisely why the Seahawks signed veteran receiver Koren Robinson Tuesday to a one-year contract. (They also traded a draft pick to Denver for receiver Keary Colbert.)

Signing Robinson is a Hail Mary pass that had to be thrown.

It should have been done last week, and the Hawks' reluctance to do it already might have cost them a precious win against division-rival San Francisco.

At 0-2, this is the time for the Hawks to loosen the rules and for team president Tim Ruskell to get over himself. And even if it is a week late, it is the right thing to do. Beggars can't be choosers.

Robinson, 28, comes with no guarantees, but he is the kind of playmaker the Seahawks desperately need.

Six years ago, he caught 78 passes for them, for 1,240 yards. Three years ago, he made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner for Minnesota.

Surely, no team is more familiar with the baggage Robinson brings with him than the Seahawks. In 2004 Holmgren sat him for a game for breaking team rules and the league suspended him for four games that season for violating its substance-abuse policy.

The Hawks released him in 2005 after the first of his two DUI arrests. Now, this is probably his last, best chance at saving his career.

When he arrived before the 2005 season, Ruskell began changing the culture of a franchise that needed reordering. He got rid of clubhouse lawyer/linebacker Anthony Simmons. Robinson was released. And, eventually Ruskell rid the team of troubled tight end Jerramy Stevens.

He was right on all of those calls.

But exceptions have to be made and rewards have to be weighed against risks.

Bringing back Robinson is a move based on need. Maybe he can break a play or two that could be the difference in another playoff run.

And signing him is risk free.

Two weeks into the season, the Seahawks are a mess. Signing Robinson isn't going to make them messier.

He's never been a problem in the locker room. In fact, he was well-liked by the players, and even Holmgren, when he was in Seattle. His salary, reportedly about $730,000, won't be a financial drain.

Robinson has had serious issues with alcohol and he will know, before today's practice starts, that he will be gone at the first sign of trouble.

The first time he's late for a meeting, the first time he shows up five minutes tardy for a practice, a bus or a plane, he will be unemployed again.

Holmgren wanted Robinson last week, when the Hawks squandered a week trying to shoehorn Samie Parker into their offense. Only Ruskell's stubbornness kept Robinson off the roster.

After Wallace and Payne were hurt Sunday, the Hawks had to press into action newcomer Billy McMullen.

Both of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's interceptions were intended for McMullen. And a McMullen fumble stopped another would-be scoring drive.

Certainly the loss can't be blamed on McMullen. He had practiced with the team three days. He wasn't expecting to play. He did as much as he could — three catches for 48 yards — but Robinson might have done more.

Robinson knows Holmgren's West Coast offense. He knows the terminology. Knows the quarterback. Knows the system.

It is asking too much to think of Robinson as the solution, but, as former Hawks coach Chuck Knox might say, Robinson is a football player who can make football plays.

He knows the playbook and he has enough left in his talented legs to make just enough plays to help a team that desperately needs his help.

Now if only he could play a little cornerback as well.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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