KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) – The NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks placed linebacker Jamie Sharper on injured reserve Friday, ending his season.

Sharper, a nine-year veteran who signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in April, started the first eight games this season before being sidelined by a staph infection in his right knee.

The Seahawks replaced Sharper on the roster by activating cornerback Mike Harden from the practice squad.

Sharper signed a $17.5 million, five-year contract, with a $1.5 million signing bonus with Seattle after being released by the Houston Texans. He was with the Texans for three seasons after playing five seasons with Baltimore.

Coach Mike Holmgren announced the decision on Sharper after the team’s practice. He said Sharper’s staph infection just wasn’t getting any better.

“He had an infection and it was a bad infection,” Holmgren said. “It has just taken a long time.”

Team doctors had to change antibiotics to treat Sharper’s infection the last couple of days, Holmgren said.

“He had a little bit of a setback, which pushed the whole thing back even farther,” he said.

“It didn’t appear we were going to have him this year.”

Rookie LeRoy Hill, a third-round draft choice from Clemson, has replaced Sharper in the starting lineup. Hill will make his sixth consecutive start Sunday when the Seahawks (10-2) go after their ninth consecutive win.

“I feel bad for Jamie,” Holmgren said.

“He’s a very competitive guy. He likes being here and he wanted to play. He just had one of those injuries. It’s serious and they had to fix it. He’s got to get well.”

The Seahawks signed Harden – released from New England’s practice squad this week – after they found out that cornerback Andre Dyson will miss at least the remainder of the regular season with a high left ankle sprain suffered in their 42-0 victory at Philadelphia on Monday night.

Dyson scored two touchdowns in Philadelphia, on a 72-yard pass interception return and a 25-yard fumble return.

Holmgren said Friday that second-year defensive back Justin Babineaux would start Sunday’s game against the 49ers. It will be Babineaux’s first career start.

Babineaux was the hero of Seattle’s 13-10 victory over Dallas at Qwest Field in October when he intercepted a pass by Drew Bledsoe and returned it 25 yards to set up Josh Brown’s winning field goal as time expired.

Babineaux said he thought he had some more big plays left.

“Any time I get a chance to get an opportunity, I think I have a chance to make a play,” he said with a smile.

He admitted he might be nervous at the start of Sunday’s game, though.

“I’m just going to have to get comfortable during the game,” he said.

AP-ES-12-09-05 1809EST

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