KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -If the Seahawks' Friday practice was any indication, Deion Branch may return from an injury in time to play Monday night against San Francisco. But triple-dinged Shaun Alexander could be out for the first time this season.
Branch, Seattle's leading receiver, returned to the field wearing a helmet and practice uniform for the first time since spraining his right foot early in the loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 7.
The former Super Bowl MVP ran on the side without apparent pain or hindrance while the rest of the Seahawks practiced. He will get a more extensive test in practice on Saturday, when coach Mike Holmgren will determine if Branch can play for the first time in four games. If Branch can't, Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett will likely start again at wide receiver.
Alexander was nowhere in sight for the third consecutive day. He twisted his left knee and ankle during last weekend's loss at Cleveland. The lead running back, who has played the last seven games with a cast on his broken left wrist, was in the weight room running again on a treadmill. He, too, will try to test the leg during practice Saturday.
If that test fails, Maurice Morris will start.
Branch and Alexander are listed as questionable to join Seattle (4-4) when it tries to stay atop the NFC West against the 49ers (2-6). Also questionable: starting tight end Marcus Pollard, who has missed the last two games following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and starting defensive end Patrick Kerney (strained oblique), special-teams leader Niko Koutouvides (hamstring) and rookie defensive end Baraka Atkins (ankle).
``They will all be game-day decisions. We will test them pretty good tomorrow,'' Holmgren said Friday.
``We've been trying to let them heal up. But I've got to see (Saturday) what they can do.''
The coach said starting outside linebacker Leroy Hill, who has a strained right hamstring, is doubtful. Rookie linebacker and special-teamer Will Herring is out with another strained hamstring.
At least one ailing starter is probable: Starting defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (strained groin). He separated the throwing shoulder of quarterback Alex Smith on a sack in the Seahawks' win at San Francisco on Sept. 30.
Holmgren had said earlier this week that Alexander, whose 492 yards rushing is his lowest total through eight games since he became Seattle's starter in 2001, could conceivably play Monday without practicing. But Friday, Holmgren said he needs to see that Alexander can run in practice without pain.
Same with Branch. His return may be more meaningful than Alexander's, given that Holmgren has said he intends to pass more and run less after weeks of trying in vain to get the ground game going.
``Branch, his game is quickness and speed, and he's got to be able to do that, `` Holmgren said. ``Otherwise I would be doing him a disservice, and the team. As much as I want him back, I've got to be smart with him.''
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