KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -It was an experience Bobby Engram could have done without.
The Seahawks' dependable receiver caught four passes in his return to Chicago last Oct. 1, playing against the team he spent five seasons with after coming out of Penn State in 1996. Then during Seattle's bye, ``I slept, literally, that whole week,'' Engram said.
On the first day back from the bye, the Seahawks sent Engram back home because he felt kind of ``funky,'' according to coach Mike Holmgren.
His condition quickly became frightening. Engram's heart began to race. He was so tired, each day he felt like he'd been through an NFL doubleheader. He remained home, barely able to eat or get around. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound Engram lost eight pounds in two weeks.
Engram, then 33, soon learned he had contracted a virus and a form of Graves' Disease - an autoimmune condition in which antibodies the body uses to fight disease begin attacking the body itself and cause the thyroid to produce an excess amount of hormones.
Initially, Seahawks doctors thought they had Engram's condition under control. But it took two months for them to find the right combination of beta blockers and other medications to slow his heart and thyroid, without slowing him to a stop. He missed nine games.
``The human body's an amazing thing,'' Engram said this week with a wide, knowing smile after a full-go practice in training camp.
``I grew up a lot. I learned a lot. I learned that I was fortunate to be playing this game. I learned about the importance of not losing the faith during that time I was out.''
Engram was barely a factor in four games that ended last season. He remained on medication into May. But now he is back deftly slicing past safety Brian Russell and running untouched for a score after catching a pass across the middle, as he did in one recent practice.
``I think he is back. All his tests and all the medical stuff that he went through, according to Bobby, he is fine,'' Holmgren said. ``He is much more aware of his own body now ... his diet and how he does things. And if he has to take any medication, he is right on top of it. He is playing well. In his play, he seems to be back where he was.''
All Seahawks attention this summer has been on the progress Deion Branch, a former Super Bowl MVP acquired last September from New England, is making replacing Darrell Jackson as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's most trusted target. Jackson was traded to San Francisco in April.
But Hasselbeck said Engram is already that ``obvious'' guy. Both arrived in Seattle before the 2001 season.
``We've spent so much time together,'' Hasselbeck said. ``I had all the confidence in the world in Bobby and that hasn't changed.''
Engram's return also means the return of the most important man on the defending three-time NFC West champions - at least according to the 2005 league MVP.
``Bobby has been the glue of our team for three years,'' running back deluxe Shaun Alexander said. ``It's always funny because Matt, Walt (Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones), and I, we get a lot of credit for stuff, but we'd be totally different without Bobby.''
They were last season. Holmgren and Alexander, who missed six games of 2006 with a broken foot, think Engram was one of the many reasons Seattle slumped from the league's most prolific offense in its Super Bowl season of 2005 to 19th-best last season. Without Engram, Hasselbeck was without his favorite target on third down.
``He is just one of those guys, he keeps on getting better,'' Alexander said. ``Better as a teammate. Better as a leader. And he is that guy that no one else in the world would know.
``Without him we would break down. He is that screw that is always missing, but we have it.''
And at last, Engram doesn't have to take a potpourri of medications, just so his heart will beat regularly. He said that ``technically'' his thyroid condition could return, ``but I'm doing things to minimize and prevent that.''
That includes a change in diet. And a renewal of a career.
``I'm at the point now that nobody would know I even had that,'' Engram said, smiling again.
``I've talked to people who had it who said it took two or three years for them to start coming back to normal.''

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