Hasselbeck and Favre


Nov 23, 2005
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Fontana, CA
"I was not," he admitted, "very good coming out of college."

As a wide-eyed rookie assigned to the practice squad, Hasselbeck joined a team that had been to the previous two Super Bowls and shared a locker room with a quarterback who had won the previous three NFL most valuable player awards.

"I honestly felt like I should have been paying the Packers just for having me there," he said.

Hasselbeck not only drew a paycheck, he gained a wealth of experience. He would spend three seasons as Favre's backup and learn how to become a pro quarterback from a list of coaches that included Mike Holmgren, Sherm Lewis, Mike Sherman, Andy Reid and Mike McCarthy.

Talk about hitting the jackpot.

"Had I gone to another team and learned from an average quarterback, I don't think I would have improved that much," Hasselbeck said. "But I got to learn behind Brett and also from great coaches and other great players."

Flash forward to 2006 and the 31-year-old Hasselbeck is among the NFL's elite quarterbacks, a two-time Pro Bowl selection for the Seattle Seahawks, the defending NFC champions.

He'll face his old team and an older Favre when the Seahawks play host to the Packers in a Monday night game at Qwest Field. In a game rife with subplots, the spotlight falls on the quarterbacks, both of whom are coming off injuries.

Favre hurt the ulnar nerve in his right elbow when he was sacked in the first half of a 35-0 beat-down at the hands of the New England Patriots last week but is expected to start his 232nd consecutive regular-season game.

Hasselbeck is back in the starting lineup after missing the last four games with a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. He suffered the injury in a Week 7 loss to Minnesota when Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson rolled into his leg.

"I had never had a knee injury before, but it was obvious to me immediately that it was really bad," Hasselbeck said. "Not only did I feel it, but it also made a real loud pop."
Seahawks hang tough

Seneca Wallace started in Hasselbeck's absence and the Seahawks went 2-2 in those games. They are coming off a 20-14 loss to San Francisco but are still atop the NFC West with a 6-4 record.

Hasselbeck will wear a brace on his knee but said he had no reservations about playing.

"It looks bad, I'll admit that right now," he said of the brace. "It looks really bad. But I think I can do everything. I can roll out, I can throw, I can run bootlegs. I don't anticipate it being a problem."

Much has changed since Hasselbeck played for the Packers, but many of the faces are the same. After Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle in 1999, Favre predicted the coach would trade for Hasselbeck; it happened in 2001. McCarthy, Hasselbeck's quarterbacks coach in '99, is now in his first year as the Packers' head coach. And, of course, the 37-year-old Favre is still slinging passes.

Had Hasselbeck stayed in Green Bay, he would be in his ninth year as Favre's backup.

"Really, I had so much fun as his backup those three years I was there," he said. "He was playing great. The team was playing great. It was fun. It was enjoyable. It didn't feel like work to me. Now, would I feel that same way nine years later? I don't know. Maybe not."

Hasselbeck has thrown for 3,000 yards in each of the last four years and went into the 2006 season with a career 86.6 rating, comparable to Favre's career rating of 86.0.

This year, Hasselbeck has completed 103 passes in 176 attempts (58.5%) for 1,249 yards, with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is ranked seventh in the NFC with a rating of 82.8.

"He's a young Brett, man," said Packers safety Marquand Manuel, who played in Seattle before signing with Green Bay as a free agent in March.

Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman described Hasselbeck as a quarterback who was efficient in the West Coast offense, understood the timing and spacing of receivers' routes and could make plays with his arm and his feet.

McCarthy said he was impressed that Hasselbeck had added an apparent 10 to 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame. The quarterback was listed at 217 pounds as a rookie and is listed at 223 this year.
Good times with Packers

In a conference call with Wisconsin reporters last week, Hasselbeck reminisced about his years in Green Bay and said he told friends McCarthy had what it took to be a head coach in the NFL, even though the two worked together for only one year.

"We spent a lot of time together and I learned a great deal from him," Hasselbeck said. "I feel that I improved from my first year to my second year and I credit him for that. He makes things simple on quarterbacks. He teaches in concepts, and so much of what he taught me I'm still doing today."

Hasselbeck said Favre also rubbed off on him in ways big and small.

"He had a huge influence on me because for three years my job was to emulate him," he said. "My job was to be the guy that, if anything happened to him, I would come in and the offense wouldn't skip a beat. The coaches wouldn't have to change anything. My job was to have my snap count, my cadence, sound exactly like his, to have the rhythm of everything I did exactly like his."

Hasselbeck even picked up Favre's habit of unsnapping his chin strap after every play.

"Guys tend to get on me a little bit for that," he said with a laugh. "I don't know why I do that. You see somebody do it for so long, you just start doing it."

He also learned from Favre's mistakes. He held the clipboard while Favre made spectacular throws on broken plays or gambled and lost, alternately thrilling and infuriating the coaches.

"Andy Reid was my quarterbacks coach (in 1998) and he would coach Brett a certain way," he said. "When Brett would leave he'd pull me aside and say, 'OK, I didn't get on him for that decision right there because he got away with it. He's got that strong of an arm and he gets away with stuff like that. I'm telling you right now, never try that.' "

One thing Favre didn't have to teach Hasselbeck was how to have fun on the field. Packers fans won't soon forget the coin toss for overtime in the 2002 NFC wild-card playoff game between Green Bay and Seattle, when a fired-up Hasselbeck declared, "We want the ball. We're gonna score!"

Instead, Packers cornerback Al Harris intercepted Hasselbeck and raced 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

"I have to tone him down every once in a while, just like I used to have to do with Brett," Holmgren said with a chuckle. "I've used this expression with both of them: 'You're not at the playground anymore, just kind of telling everyone to go out for the long one. It's a different game now.'

"But I could preach to both of them until I'm blue in the face and the fun part of football will always be there for those two guys."

On Monday night, one quarterback is going to have a lot more fun than the other.