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Seahawks miss Hutchinson's leadership

October 22, 2006|From the Associated Press

SEATTLE — Matt Hasselbeck misses Steve Hutchinson's leadership and intimidation.

Mike Holmgren, in his 36th consecutive year of coaching football, misses "really one of the best linemen I've ever been around."

Robbie Tobeck misses his best friend.

The Vikings' tricky "poison pill" contract clause that snatched All-Pro Hutchinson from Seattle in March hasn't exactly killed the Seahawks -- they are 4-1 and back atop the NFC West heading into today's game with Minnesota (3-2) and its new left guard.

But it has definitely made them sick.

"Yeah, I hate him. We all hate him," Hasselbeck said, laughing and joking that he also misses Hutchinson's dark, flowing hair.

"He's kind of one of those guys that is impossible to hate," the Pro Bowl quarterback said.

"We know that he wanted to be back here. For three years he complained and whined, because he is an offensive lineman and that's what offensive linemen do, saying how he wishes he could sign a deal."

Last spring, that wish came true.

Seattle made its first-round draft choice in 2001 its transition player due for a mandated one-year contract. Hutchinson was miffed the Seahawks hadn't already given him a multiyear deal, as they had for left tackle Walter Jones a year earlier. So he signed Minnesota's free agent offer sheet worth $49 million over seven years, with a $16 million signing bonus.

Seattle had the right to match, but the richest deal ever for a guard proved too pricey even for team owner and software billionaire Paul Allen.

Minnesota and Hutchinson's agent, Tom Condon, created unprecedented clauses that stipulated the entire contract would become guaranteed if Hutchinson was not the highest-paid lineman on his team. So Seattle would have had to give him a deal at least equal to Jones' average annual salary of $7.5 million -- unheard of for a guard -- or guarantee all $49 million, unheard of for anybody.

The Seahawks lost an arbitrator's ruling over whether Minnesota's contract violated the league's collective bargaining agreement, then declined to match.

"Hutch made out like a bandit," Hasselbeck said, admiringly.

Holmgren said that "as far as the structure of any contract like that, I don't think clubs should do that."

"There are loopholes, and you get some smart guys figuring out how to do things ... but to me it's against the spirit of the rule," said the coach who was Seattle's general manager from 1999 to 2002. "I would hope that it wouldn't happen again to anybody, not just us, but anybody."

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