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Originally published Friday, December 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks Notebook | Ex-USC stars Tatupu, Leinart to face off

They're friends and former college teammates exchanging some friendly fire this week. Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu and Arizona Cardinals...

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — They're friends and former college teammates exchanging some friendly fire this week.

Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart are two of the top players on their respective teams, and each played big roles in the USC football team's recent success.

Now Leinart, a rookie, will face Tatupu, a second-year player, for the first time in the NFL on Sunday. And they want to make a play against each other.

Tatupu seeks an interception, Leinart a touchdown.

"I'm due for one," Tatupu snapped. "How long has it been, since Week 5? So let's hope that it finally comes. All joking aside, he's a great quarterback and we have to be on our game. All the 4-3 defenses that are being ran up here [in the NFL], he's seen from going against them every day with Pete's defense."

That would be USC coach Pete Carroll.

Leinart had yet to give Tatupu a call as of Wednesday, a fact not lost on Tatupu.

"I've talked to him throughout the season here and there. It's going to be fun," Leinart said. "He's always said he's going to pick me off, so I told him, 'This week, man.' I told him I'm going to throw a touchdown on him, hopefully."

Leinart also complimented Tatupu.

"He was always talking and always starting stuff, but he can back it up now," Leinart said. "He's a great player."

Burleson honored

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Nate Burleson, Seahawks return man-wide receiver, was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month, the NFL announced Thursday.

Burleson, a Seattle native, had 14 punt returns for 193 yards and an NFC-best 13.8-yard return average, including a 90-yard touchdown against St. Louis on Nov. 12. He added five kickoff returns for 129 yards and a 25.8-yard return average during the month.

The punt-return touchdown was the only such touchdown in the NFC during November and the second-longest in Seahawks history.

This is Burleson's first Player of the Month Award.

Helping Hasselbeck

Coach Mike Holmgren said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been "a little inconsistent." But he also praised Hasselbeck for making clutch throws last week in Denver.

"We ask a lot of Matt. Too much of Matt, we really do, as far as audibles and all that stuff," Holmgren said. "I've got to tone that down a little bit because it's not fair. We're going to tone that down a little bit and let him play.

"We get so clever sometimes that we don't even let the guys play. So we're going to change that a little bit. I'll take some responsibility for that. But he needs to play more consistently down the stretch, and he knows that."

Notes

• The Thursday-night game between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 14 at Qwest Field will be carried locally on KCPQ (Channel 13), the station announced this week. The NFL Network holds the national rights to the telecast.

• Holmgren called rookie left guard Rob Sims the future of the team, and said Sims will continue to get playing time, as he has in the past two games.

• Holmgren didn't care much for DE Darryl Tapp's tribute-to-Deion Sanders dance in the end zone after his interception return for a touchdown last week, and the coach communicated that to Tapp.

• LB Julian Peterson returned to practice after an excused absence Wednesday.

• The Seahawks lead the NFL in first-quarter points with 79. Arizona is second with 73.

• Three Seahawks celebrated birthdays on Wednesday — WR Darrell Jackson (28 years old), Sims (23) and S Mike Green (30).

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