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Seahawks' Alan Branch returns to practice

By Bill Swartz

For the second straight day the Seahawks had a batch of starters not participating in practice, including receiver Sidney Rice and conerbacks Walter Thurmond, Marcus Trufant and Richard Sherman.

Rice is dealing with a sore knee and foot while Thurmond and Trufant are recovering from hamstring injuries that kept them out of last week's game against the Bills.

Sherman's absence was not injury related. There are multiple reports saying his appeal hearing for his four-game suspension will be held Friday.

Unless Trufant or Thurmond can get back to full health, the Seahawks could have to go with Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and Ron Parker in the secondary Sunday night against the 49ers.

There was some positive injury news Thursday. Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle) was a full participant. With Seattle placing defensive lineman Jason Jones (knee) on injured reserve, the team is taking a closer look at young backups.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said rookies Greg Scruggs and Jaye Howard are both getting lots of work and could be in the rotation along with veteran Clinton McDonald.

I spoke with Scruggs before practice and he assured me he is ready for this prime-time, nationally televised game. Scruggs believes he didn't step up his game in college and it cost him a chance to be a first-round draft pick. He has practiced at all four defensive line positions for Seattle.

Bradley has placed an emphasis on gap control and fundamental assignments against San Francisco's multiple-look rushing attack. The Seahawks gave up explosive run plays to Frank Gore in their first meeting in Week 7. Many of those longer runs, Bradley explained, were trap plays utilizing the 49ers' pulling guards and tackles.

A bug is going through the team. Running back Leon Washington was back at practice after a sick day. Running back Robert Turbin was limited with an illness. Even Bradley had a hoarse voice as he deals with a case of bronchitis.

One of the 49ers' most important defensive players missed another day of practice. Lineman Justin Smith has an elbow injury. Linebacker Clark Haggans was also a non-participant the last two days due to a shoulder problem.

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