Halfway through practice today a group of reporters shared perplexed looks because we could not find No. 68 anywhere out on the field.
Pork Chop Womack worked in Mike Wahle’s place during team drills until near the end of practice a smiling Wahle jogged onto the practice field.
His fellow lineman greeted him with applause and handshakes. Wahle became a father this morning.
Wahle and wife Trina had a son, Maddox, the couple’s second child. The couple also has a daughter, Teagan.
Said Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren: "She’s doing fine and the baby is doing fine. We made arrangements for Mike to travel there tomorrow, but I didn’t expect him to come to practice."
Deion Branch practiced again today, and ran a couple routes during team drills in this practice without pads. However, Branch will not play on Sunday, Holmgren said. Bobby Engram also will not suit up, and right tackle Sean Locklear is likely will not play, although Holmgren did not rule Locklear out. Ray Willis would start in Locklear’s place.
"Again the process is to get him feeling good at what he’s asked to do," Holmgren said about Branch. "So next week will do a little bit more and get him into some competitive things. At some point he has to do that just so he knows he can do it. That’s the big hurdle now."
With both Branch and Engram out it puts more pressure on receivers like Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent to make plays to keep the chains moving.
"I’m expecting a lot of the young guys," Holmgren said. "It’s very important that they play well. Now, it’s as an unusual situation at that position as I’ve ever had. So we’ll see."
Holmgren said Josh Wilson will return kicks, and the punt return situation still has not been settled
"When we line them up, you’ll see whose catching it," Holmgren said about who will return punts.
Holmgren talked about the team’s defensive struggles on the road, and said Seattle must do a better job of handling adversity away from home.
"What we thought was on the road is we got shocked, either by a big play or a bad thing happening," he said. "And it took us awhile to recover. And then that led to something else, and then we got behind."
Holmgren went on to say at home it’s easier to overcome adversity with the home crowd behind you providing a boost, giving the team a better ability to recover from momentum-changing plays.
As he stated earlier this week, Maurice Morris will start at running back, although Holmgren did reiterate that Julius Jones may start in Week 2. Holmgren said Morris was not handed the starting job but earned it, and he expects Morris to play well on Sunday.
"Mo has been a loyal soldier, if you will," Holmgren said. "And played very well for us. This is not a hand out. He’s played very well and earned this. And he’s been a person that’s been pretty unselfish in my opinion. To get his chance, I think it’s a good story."
Holmgren also addressed center Chris Spencer’s status. Seattle’s starting center only played two series against Oakland in preseason action, so Holmgren has concerns about Spencer’s conditioning.
"We have no choice; Chris is our center," Holmgren said. "The only question I would have – and I have confidence in his ability to get this done – is his stamina for the game. He hasn’t played much, and now he’s going to have to play the whole game. So if I think he needs a blow then (Steve) Vallos can go in the game and play, and we’ll how that sorts itself out.
“But it’s nice to have him back. He’s a very important part of our lineup."
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu went through the entire practice and looks ready to go.