Wallace’s Place Is On The Field

By Steve Kelley
Updated: July 31, 2006

CHENEY, Wash. — Imagine Seneca Wallace in a new role. Imagine him in a game, on the field, where he belongs.

Imagine, the Seahawks’ defense has held and the punt-return team, led by returner Wallace, takes the field.

Imagine the buzz in the stadium as the ball begins its descent, every fan certain that the first tackler is going to miss Wallace and after that, anything is possible.

Imagine the possibilities if the Seahawks could find a way to get the football into the hands of their backup quarterback. Imagine what Wallace might be able to do in the open field, in a fourth quarter of a must-win game.

“We talk about it all the time,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said after Sunday’s morning practice. “We talked about it again last night.”

Wallace is a playmaker; maybe, next to Shaun Alexander, the most dangerous offensive weapon the Seahawks have.

The 28-yard pass he caught in the NFC Championship Game against Carolina last January, in his first shot at wide receiver, was just a taste of what Wallace could become.

He could be the best punt returner since Henry Ellard was breaking records with the then-Los Angeles Rams. He could be a third receiver who could ease the pain of Joe Jurevicius’ departure to Cleveland.

But he can’t get on the field. His blessing is his curse. He is too good at one position to risk using him at another.

Because Wallace is the backup quarterback, Holmgren can’t afford for him to suffer a twisted ankle or a sprained knee on a punt return.

“We have a whole bunch of stuff ready if we ever get that chance,” Holmgren said, “but now I can’t do it.”

Won’t somebody please find a way to get Seneca Wallace on the field?

Shouldn’t the Hawks wait patiently through August for a veteran backup for Matt Hasselbeck to become available? Shouldn’t they sign somebody who can free Wallace to become Wallace?

“We all look at him and think of the things he could do for us,” offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said. “But you have to temper all that, because he’s the second-string quarterback and he’s not going to be able to do those things. If he got hurt, then Matt’s playing by himself and we’ve really got a problem.”

Can’t this team find a way for one of the best athletes on the team to become one of the best athletes on the field?

Wallace is a good enough athlete to compete in pickup basketball games with Jason Terry, Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford and Reggie Evans.

“I hold my own,” Wallace said.

Aren’t the Seahawks wasting one of their most dangerous weapons? Couldn’t he, shouldn’t he, be the next Antwaan Randle El, the next great “Slash?”

“If you brought in a veteran quarterback now, it would be pretty hard for him to get up to speed with our offense,” Holmgren said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not looking. That could happen at the final cut and then we could allow Seneca to do some things.

“Unless David Greene and Gibran Hamdan can prove to me that they can come in and play, I can’t take the risk of allowing Seneca to come in and do some of those other things.”

Wallace is too good for his own good. Too important where he is to risk moving him where he should be.

So now in his fourth season, Wallace is forced — for the time being, at least — to be Hasselbeck’s backup.

“My feeling is, I’d be willing to do it [change positions],” Wallace said. “But it’s not my call. It’s the head coach’s call. All I can do is what I’m capable of doing, and right now I’m focusing on quarterback. If needed, as the season goes on, if something happens, if someone gets hurt, he [Holmgren] knows that I’m there to help out the team anywhere I can.

“He talked to me about some of the things he was thinking about. He told me, after last season, they might do something like that [bring in a veteran backup], but that was his call. My whole thing was to make sure I was prepared at quarterback. But I’ve always been willing to play wherever they wanted me to play. Whatever that is.”

He’s too good to sit. Too good to carry a clipboard for 60 minutes, 16 weeks a year.

Seneca Wallace needs to play, so he can make plays.