SEATTLE A shorter preseason and more real games? Mike Holmgren is all for it. Lane Kiffin's not so sure.
Holmgren's backup Seattle Seahawks host Kiffin's reserve Oakland Raiders on Friday night in the preseason finale. That's the official description. It's really a final, three-hour tryout of kids for two beat-up teams that would rather not be playing another fake game.
Holmgren, a former backup quarterback at Southern California drafted in the eighth round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970, used to think the preseason games were fine as is. Not anymore.
Not with indispensable quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (tight back), Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu (bruised knee), record-setting receiver Bobby Engram (broken shoulder), former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch (knee surgery) and right tackle Sean Locklear (sprained knee) all hurt this preseason and out for Friday's game.
"I've changed my tune. I used to think four was OK," said Holmgren, who until a few years ago was on the league's competition committee. "When I was a rookie, we had six!
"A lot of veterans have used the time to get into shape. Players don't do that anymore. ... We're killing them in the offseason. So you don't need as many (preseason games). You really don't."
Friday, Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace will be handing off a lot to Justin Forsett. The rookie seventh-round draft pick from California needs to rebound from a bad game against the Chargers on Monday night to survive Saturday's final cuts to the 53-man regular-season limit.
"Every play I've got to play like it's my last play ever in the NFL," Forsett said. "I'm trying to make it no doubt that I belong here."
With No. 3 quarterback Charlie Frye missing Seattle's only practice this week because of a sore knee and Wallace coming off a groin injury, No. 4 Dalton Bell may be throwing passes to Logan Payne, Jordan Kent, Courtney Taylor and Michael Bumpus the throng of receivers trying to take one of the last roster spots.
For Oakland, starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell won't play. Backup Andrew Walter will start and Marques Tuiasosopo may relieve. Banged up star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha won't play, either. Pro Bowler Shane Lechler won't punt.
If rookie running back Darren McFadden, the fourth overall pick, is on the field, it won't be for long. Seattle's crowd can enjoy former Husky and deep backup Louis Rankin instead. Starting receivers Ronald Curry and Javon Walker won't play. Marcel Reece will.
Not exactly regular-season players for the fans who are paying regular-season money for tickets.
"This roster can't afford any more injuries right now," said Kiffin, who lost receiver Drew Carter and fullback Oren O'Neal to injuries last week. "I just don't see the value of putting these guys out there and losing one of these guys."
The NFL has been exploring making the preseason two or three games and adding a 17th or 18th regular season game. The idea is gaining momentum again after the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants lost key pass rusher Osi Umenyiora for the season to a knee injury last week in a preseason game.
The only players who like these games are the young ones like Forsett and Rankin, who cherish every opportunity to become the last men on rosters.
Veterans? They would love to get two more weeks of regular season paychecks. Their collective bargaining agreements mandate they are paid $1,225 per week in per diems during training camp, plus $200 per week once exhibition games begin.
Owners wouldn't mind the additional TV revenue more real games would command, on top of the current deals with networks that total over $3.5 billion per season but first have to agree with the players on how much to share that added cash.
Coaches wouldn't mind the decreased risk of injury to starters who barely play the first, second and fourth preseason games, anyway.
"Well, that appears to be the way they're going to go," Holmgren said of fewer preseason games.
Kiffin, who in his second season as a head coach has been in the job 15 fewer years than Holmgren, isn't sure.
"Yeah, that looks good, but you're going to deal with more injuries during the regular season," Kiffin said. "Not that I know a lot about it, but ... imagine the critics that come out when you're playing game 17 or game 18 and all of a sudden your start player gets hurt and isn't there for the playoffs."There are a lot of pros and cons to everything when you look at it."
AP sports writer Josh Dubow in Alameda, Calif., contributed to this report.