KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -Bobby Engram walked into Mike Holmgren's office and told his coach he was ready for the larger, lead role that the Seahawks need filled in their depleted passing game.
``When he walked in the door, I knew exactly what he was going to say: Everyone wants to play more,'' Holmgren said of his veteran receiver, who will replace the injured Deion Branch as the starting flanker when Seattle (3-2) hosts New Orleans (0-4) on Sunday night.
But Engram's plea was refreshing, not routine, to Holmgren.
``He wanted to convey to me that physically, he could handle more,'' the coach said of the veteran who averaged 47 catches per season for Seattle from 2001 until a mysterious illness ruined his 2006.
This time last year, Engram couldn't even handle walking across his living room. He was laid out on his couch.
``I just think it's nothing short of a miracle,'' Engram said, shaking his head while wearing a huge smile as he contemplated a rapid recovery that has others in awe.
In early October, 2006, a virus and Graves' disease engulfed Engram. The thyroid condition led to an accelerated heart rate and debilitating fatigue.
Engram, 34, lost about a dozen pounds off his playing weight of 192 and missed nine games while ingesting a potpourri of pills. Finally, doctors pinpointed the right combination of medicines to stabilize the condition without zapping Engram's energy.
He returned for the final three regular season games and both playoff games, catching 13 passes while still taking beta blockers and other drugs. By April, Engram was off the meds completely.
``I'm getting letters from people (who had the same illness) who've been on medicine three or four years, man. They are like, 'You are amazing. How are you doing it?''' Engram said.
He tried his doctors' recommendations and changed his diet.
``But there is no logical explanation why I was able to come back the way I did and other people can't - and particularly what I do, the amount of running I do, It's ... `` Engram said, shaking his head.
``It's a miracle.''
The Seahawks appreciate the timing.
Darrell Jackson was traded to San Francisco in April. Branch is out for at least two games with a sprained foot. D.J. Hackett, the other starting receiver in the opener, will miss at least one more game with a high ankle sprain.
Engram's 19 catches through five games are second on the team to Branch's 22. His two touchdown receptions are tied for the team lead with Nate Burleson.
Now Engram is moving from his slot position as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's trusted target on third down to the outside, lead role on early downs.
``It's either him or me,'' offensive coordinator Gil Haskell joked.
Haskell said in three wide-receiver sets, Engram will go back into the slot and Ben Obomanu, a seventh-round draft choice in 2006, will go outside.
Courtney Taylor, also from Auburn and a rookie sixth-round pick, will be active for the third time. And Seneca Wallace, Hasselbeck's dynamic backup, is likely to be a receiver for the third consecutive game.
``He is the wild card in all this,'' Holmgren said.
Pro Bowl fullback Mack Strong, valued during his 15-year career as a pass blocker and deft receiver on third downs, is being forced into retirement immediately by a herniated disk in his neck. Leonard Weaver, a former undrafted free-agent and college tight end at Division II Carson-Newman, is the new starting fullback.
For depth, the Seahawks signed 35-year-old Fred McCrary, a former Super Bowl winner with New England whom Atlanta did not re-sign last spring after three seasons with the Falcons. He was working with the dump trucks of Colonel McCrary Trucking in Atlanta when Seattle called.
The only thing that won't be different Sunday for Seattle: The man throwing the ball. Even though Hasselbeck, like the rest of the Seahawks, was awful in a 21-0 loss at Pittsburgh last weekend, the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl passer two seasons ago completed 67 percent of his throws in the best September of his career.
``People worry about this and that, but we've got a hell of a quarterback,'' Haskell said. ``Think of all those (teams) that don't have (healthy starting) quarterbacks. You can't invent a guy to throw the ball. We can throw it.''
And Engram can catch it. He's been doing it with Hasselbeck for seven years.
That's why Hasselbeck dismissed Engram's move outside as a non-issue.
``Half the routes we have I could throw with my eyes closed to Bobby,'' Hasselbeck said.

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