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Originally published Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 8:08 PM

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Nate Burleson shows he's back after knee injury

Seahawks wide receiver catches game-high seven passes, including 12-yarder for touchdown.

Seattle Times staff

Nate Burleson hid from football last year, which is an odd for him because he has loved the sport for a long as he can remember.

But the game that has given him so much, tore up his knee, stole the 2008 season, made him a recluse in his home and made him think he might never play again.

"I gave the remote to my kids and was sitting at the house watching Noggin all day," Burleson said of the kids-show network. "They had me watching cartoons and 'SpongeBob' because I didn't want to look at ESPN. There was nothing positive being said about the Seahawks, and I didn't want to be reminded of the sport that I couldn't play.

"It was tough. What's the point of watching highlights if you're not in them?"

Last year, Burleson suffered a season-ending injury when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on a rain-slicked, synthetic field in Buffalo during a 34-10 loss.

Burleson returned in Sunday's 28-0 win over St. Louis on a surgically repaired knee, and new offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp wasted little time getting him involved in the offense.

Three of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's first four passes went to Burleson, including an 11-yard reception that he fumbled with 8:07 remaining in the first quarter.

"When you get hurt like he did in the first game of the season last year, he might not admit it, but there's going to be some nervousness about the first game," Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "Obviously they came out, and you can see the game plan initially was just try to get Nate the ball. Get him on the field. Get the ghosts, so to speak, out of his mind and get the confidence in him."

After the fumble, Hasselbeck continued firing at Burleson, who caught two passes on the next drive for 10 and 12 yards and was the target when Oshiomogho Atogwe intercepted a Hasselbeck pass late in the first quarter.

In the second period, Burleson caught three passes, including a 12-yarder in the end zone for a touchdown. He finished with a game-high seven catches for 74 yards before leaving midway through the third quarter because of leg cramps.

Despite the early departure, Burleson felt a great sense of satisfaction.

"At the very beginning of my recovery when I had the surgery, I couldn't bend my knee and I had doubts if I could make it back," he said. "It was like Day 2 or Day 3, and the doctors said this happens every time, but in your mind you're thinking, 'I can't bend my knee. How am I going to be able to run again? How am I going to be able to jump again? How am I going to be able to move and shake again?'

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Burleson said Sunday was just another step on a long road to recovery. He admits he's still not fully recovered, but at least he doesn't have to hide from football anymore.

"After games now, I can go home, turn on ESPN, and now I get to smile and watch TV not only because I got in the end zone but also to watch the team," he said. "I can watch everybody say some good things about the Seahawks and know I contributed to that."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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