RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks acquired Charlie Whitehurst in the offseason because they felt he could someday be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL.
The plan was not, however, to have Whitehurst starting games this soon.
But when the Seahawks face the New York Giants Sunday, Whitehurst will start in place of Matt Hasselbeck, who suffered a concussion late in Seattle’s loss to Oakland and has not been cleared by doctors to play.
“We’re going to hold Matt Hasselbeck out this week,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He needs another week to get right. We’ve gone through all the battery of testing, and we need to do this to protect him and take care of him. Charlie Whitehurst is going to start, and I’m excited for Charlie to get his chance. He came here to play, and he’s looking forward to it.
“In a day in age when so much is on everybody’s mind about taking care of concussions, we obviously want to do the right thing here and take care of Matt.”
Whitehurst came to Seattle in a trade with San Diego in March when the Seahawks gave up a third-round pick and moved 20 spots back in the second round. Seattle then signed Whitehurst, who spent four seasons with the Chargers, primarily as the third-string quarterback, to a two-year contract worth $6 million in base salary. Both the compensation given up to San Diego and the money given to Whitehurst indicated that Seahawks view the former third-round pick out of Clemson as more than a backup.
“He’s ready,” Carroll said. “I’ve talked to Charlie since the first day he got here that he’s come here to play football and nothing else. He’s not coming here to be a backup or do anything other than make himself a spot. He has done a fantastic job up until this point, he’s done everything we’ve asked of him, and we’re really excited to see him play now. We’re going to rally around him and give him a great supporting cast and hopefully he’ll have a great start.”
Whitehurst has played in a few regular-season games, including the final series of last week’s loss, but has yet to attempt a pass in a regular season game in his career.
“It’s exciting,” Whitehurst said of his first start. “It does kind of sneak up on you, but luckily I’ve been preparing like this, not just this year but in years past. I feel like I’m ready to go and I plan to go out there and play well.”
The prospect of starting his first game isn’t making Whitehurst nervous just yet, but he figures that will come this weekend. “Not yet, not yet,” he said. “I probably will be. I’m more anxious, excited. I’ll be nervous, and that’s fine, but it’s happening pretty fast right now.”
Since the Seahawks only have two quarterbacks on their active roster, they’ll sign rookie Zac Robinson off the practice squad to serve as the backup. Robinson was a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State who was released by New England before the start of the season.
Whitehurst is hardly making his first start under ideal conditions. Seattle could be without leading receiver Mike Williams, who has missed two straight days with a bruised knee, as well as rookie receiver Golden Tate, who is almost certainly out with an ankle injury. Along the offensive line, the Seahawks could be missing starting left tackle Russell Okung (ankle), as well as his backup, Tyler Polumbus (knee). Okung and Polumbus have missed both days of practice this week, leaving Chester Pitts, who only returned from microfracture surgery last weekend, as the starting left tackle.
Let’s not forget that the Giants rank second in the league in total defense, have 24 sacks and have knocked five opposing quarterbacks out of games this season.
“Yeah, it’s a great challenge for our football team,” Carroll said. “(The Giants) are really good and nothing short of that. It’s a full challenge by these guys and they’ll bring it.”
As for Hasselbeck, Carroll said he expects to have the starting quarterback back for next week’s game in Arizona, but Hasselbeck will still have to be cleared by doctors before anything is definite.
While Hasselbeck’s injury is the most noteworthy, he is far from being the only injured Seahawk this week. The good news for Seattle is that defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) and center Chris Spencer (neck) returned to practice. Mebane, who has missed the past three games, was listed as limited in practice, while Spencer was able to practice fully.