Matt Hasselbeck is the first to admit that he has yet to play his best football this season.
Following last Thursday’s 26-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers he was focused on “the mistakes we made” and the sense that “we can be so much better on offense.” Still, the veteran quarterback’s performance in that contest (25-55, 290 yards, one touchdown, one interception) was better than the one five days earlier in a loss at Minnesota.
“There’s no doubt the more you play — especially in that position — the better you’re going to play,” coach Mike Munchak said.
The good news for Hasselbeck, therefore, is that Sunday’s game at Buffalo (noon, CBS) is another opportunity for improvement.
Munchak said Monday that Jake Locker would miss a third straight start because of a separated left (non-throwing shoulder).
Locker sustained the injury in the first quarter of a Sept. 30 loss at Houston and has not practiced or played since. The 2011 first-round draft pick underwent his latest examination Monday but those results were not immediately available.
“He’s feeling better,” Munchak said. “He’s doing better. He’s stronger. That’s what you go by. He’s coming along well. I’m sure the MRI will be fine and it won’t show anything different other than that it’s healing. That will allow him to start throwing and doing more things this week.”
It won’t, however, allow him to play this week.
Locker initially hurt the shoulder late in the season opener against New England. Hasselbeck replaced him and played the fourth quarter that day. As a result, the two have spit time through the first six weeks of the season almost evenly.
Locker has attempted 17 fewer passes but has outperformed Hasselbeck in terms of completion percentage (63.2-60.2), yards (781-726), yards per attempt (7.37-5.90) and quarterback rating (90.2-74.1). Each has thrown four touchdown passes but Hasselbeck has thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as Locker (two). Locker’s longest completion went for 71 yards, nearly twice that of Hasselbeck’s (37).
With all that in mind, Munchak stressed that the starting job is still Locker’s — provided he’s healthy.
“We’re going to do what’s best for him, best for the team like we would with any player,” Munchak said. “If he’s just not ready yet … I hope he could be close by Sunday, but chances are it will take a little more than a week to actually be ready to play in a football game.
“Believe me, Jake wanted to play that Pittsburgh game and wants to play this week but he physically can’t. … At some point, Jake will be coming back to lead this thing. We want to be in the playoff hunt and it’s going to take a group effort to get that done.”
The hope, of course, is that when he does return Locker picks up where he left off rather than start back at Square One. His last full game was the victory over Detroit when he threw for a career-high 378 yards with two touchdowns. It was his only full game as a starter in which he did not throw an interception.
The longer he’s out, the less likely that is to happen so the plan is to return to him as soon as he is able.
“If he’s ready to play, I’d think we’d play him,” Munchak said. “We’ll have to wait and see. Our intention would be just like last time. He was healthy. We felt he was ready to run the team and he did. If he’s healthy enough to suit up then we feel he’s healthy enough to play.
“… He’ll probably start doing more activity this week. We’ll just have to wait to see how he does the next couple of days, how fast he comes along. I would imagine it would take him another week to be ready to play.”