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Friday, August 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Surgery for Stevens; out at least 6 weeks

Seattle Times staff reporter

CHENEY — Just when it looked like Jerramy Stevens was close to going full bore in practice and eventually playing in his first exhibition game on Aug. 26, misfortune struck the Seahawks tight end again.

Stevens will be out for at least six weeks after suffering a torn meniscus (cartilage) in his left knee in practice Thursday morning. The four-year veteran will have surgery today in Seattle. The six-week diagnosis would put him on target to return for the Oct. 1 regular-season game against Chicago.

He was carted off the practice field after injuring his knee trying to make a catch. He went up for a pass against linebacker Leroy Hill and came down with most of his weight on the knee, the same one he had surgically repaired during the offseason.

Stevens managed to get up, but could only limp off the field.

Stevens, a full-time starter last season, made his training-camp debut Aug. 9, about 3 ˝ months after surgery. He seemed somewhat apprehensive about getting back on the field, coach Mike Holmgren expressed earlier in camp. Stevens had not participated in every practice, yet was doing more with each passing day.

An MRI after practice Thursday revealed the injury, which makes Itula Mili the starting tight end for the length of Stevens' recovery. Mili had been holding down that spot throughout training camp, anyway.

"Mili's had a great camp," Holmgren said. "It's good to have him back, because now with Jerramy's situation, to have a veteran tight end in there is good."

Stevens has not missed a game — regular season or postseason — since his rookie year, in 2002. That season, he had a high ankle sprain that cost him four games.

The Seahawks also have Will Heller, Matt Murphy and Keith Willis at tight end. They will get most of the exhibition playing time, at least over the next two games before the first roster cuts are made Aug. 29.

Stevens will be missed because of his size (6 feet 7, 270 pounds), speed and athleticism. He can get to balls that many other tight ends and receivers can't.

"We haven't had him this whole time," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "It's not going to be much different than it has been all offseason and so far this training camp, but having him back on the field was fun. It was nice; it gives our offense an element of speed at that position, stretching the field and that kind of stuff, but there's stuff that those other guys do really well, too."

Sims gets the call

Rob Sims and Chris Spencer were walking near the Seahawks' training-camp locker rooms earlier this week when a passerby pointed out that they represented 40 percent of the starting offensive line.

The names aren't a misprint. Sims and Spencer will start at left guard and center Sunday when the Seahawks travel to Indianapolis for their second exhibition game.

Sims, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, got in with the second unit on the offensive line last week against Dallas. Because of injuries to starters Robbie Tobeck and Floyd Womack, Sims, the third option at left guard behind Womack and Spencer, is next up.

"I'm ready step up and not miss a beat," the rookie said. "I think I'm going to have a big test this week with the Colts defense. Of course they've got a great secondary. They've got a good overall team, so I think every week for me this year is going to be a test, if I get to get in there and get some playing time."

Sims said he felt good about his effort last weekend. The Cowboys like to blitz, and their interior defensive line prefers the bull-rush technique, so Sims was tested often.

But Sims' indoctrination into the starting unit has not come without challenges. On Wednesday morning in practice, defensive tackle Chuck Darby roared through a gap between Sims and Spencer to disrupt a running play.

"No one beats us up the middle like that!" Holmgren shouted.

Sims will get on-the-job training, with a quick learning curve.

"My plan was just to come here and get ready just in case something like this happened," Sims said.

For running back Shaun Alexander, having new and young guys on the line blocking for him is just part of the game.

"Guys are going to get hurt, and somebody has to step in and get better," Alexander said. "I think the best thing about this is that with Robbie being out for a little bit ... we get to let all these guys get reps and kind of catch the flow of their game."

First big fight

It lasted only a few seconds, but it was some time in coming.

The everyday grind of camp can get to players, and things finally boiled over three weeks in for Spencer and linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski Thursday morning.

On a routine running play, Spencer pulled to the right from his center position. He met Kacyvenski, working at outside linebacker with the scout team, head-on in a scrum of blockers, and the two got into a scuffle in which Spencer ripped Kacyvenski's helmet off his head.

The players had to be separated. The defensive players congratulated Kacyvenski, who always plays with reckless abandon, even in practice.

"That was nothing," Hasselbeck said, then took a shot, in fun, at Tobeck, who is recovering from elbow surgery. "It's actually a good thing, especially for the offense. It's about time we got some toughness at center, someone who will stick up for himself."

Hasselbeck said now is the time to poke fun at Tobeck, calling his injury "tennis elbow."

After a little jab at the defense for the lack of complexity of their signals, Hasselbeck said the altercation shows that the team is ready for the season to start.

Notes

• CB Jordan Babineaux saw more time as the nickel back in practice Thursday, which cut down on the snaps for CB Kelly Jennings. Holmgren wanted to get more action for Babineaux because he is coming back from shoulder surgery.

• MLB Lofa Tatupu missed his second straight day of practice with a groin injury.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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