Today is really quite simple for Robinson. Today in front of 60,000 sets of critical eyes, he has to grow up. He's 24. In his fourth season. There are no excuses left.

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Conventional wisdom always said his talent overshadowed his troubles. His ability to catch and run camouflaged his inability to correct mistakes.


His skills made him worth the wager.


So the Seahawks, the same Seahawks who stayed away from Randy Moss because they thought he might be a coach killer, gambled a first-round pick in 2001 on North Carolina State’s Koren Robinson, who already had a reputation as a playmaker and a play-ah. He was a marvelous talent, whose maturity hadn’t matched his skills.


Coach Mike Holmgren, who has a severe allergy to knuckleheads, went against type, hoping, believing, he could get Robinson away from home and mold him into the kind of receiver he saw on tape.


Robinson would become one of Holmgren’s remodeling projects.


















Today


Arizona at Seahawks, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13, 710 AM


“He’s a likeable kid,” Holmgren has said on numerous occasions.


In 14 of Robinson’s 22 college games, he gained at least 100 receiving yards, tying his school’s record set by Torry Holt. But it took Holt 41 games to do what Robinson did in 22.


Robinson was good. And Holmgren was willing to take the risk on this prototypical receiver for his West Coast offense.


Robinson was a pass catcher with a running back’s mentality. A receiver who could break tackles and turn a 5-yard slant pass into a 50-yard game-breaker.


He was a kid with the potential to be the next Jerry Rice, or at least the next Torry Holt.


But four years into his NFL career, Robinson still attracts trouble the way he attracts cornerbacks. And this season it caught up with him. Even as NFL sleuths were about to bust him, Robinson continued the habit of dropping passes that first hooked him in 2004.


He showed up late for team meetings. And, finally, he was benched for one game by Holmgren.


The next week the league suspended him for four more games, citing him for violating its substance-abuse policy.


He returns today for an afternoon of redemption.


“It’s not his last chance,” Holmgren cautioned last week. “But it’s another chance.”


When Robinson returned, Holmgren lectured him about his importance to the team and the importance of commitment.


“But I’ve had these talks before about what I expect from him,” Holmgren said. “I’ve had a number of these before. He’s very, very important to us.”


Today is really quite simple for Robinson. Today in front of 60,000 sets of critical eyes, he has to grow up. He’s 24. In his fourth season. There are no excuses left. There is no room for dropped passes. No room for half-hearted pass routes.


Before last season he said he wanted to be the best wide receiver in the game. Better than Terrell Owens. Better than Moss. The best. But this season he hasn’t even been the best receiver on the field.


Today’s the day.


He said last week he wasn’t worried about his image. He should be. He called his forced five-week vacation “a learning experience.” Today we’ll see what he learned.


“This game’s very, very important,” Holmgren said, “and he has to play and be a part of it. He’s got to help us. Now.”


With their defense battered and depleted, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck throwing with an aching right arm, the Seahawks need the Koren Robinson they saw in 2002, when he caught 78 passes and scored five touchdowns.


They hope he returns chastened and matured.


“He’s glad to be back,” Holmgren said. “He’s a competitive guy. He likes to play football.”


But his chances are dwindling here as he continues to test his coach’s patience. Robinson can be as good as he wants to be. Even in this lost season, even after missing five games, he is the Hawks’ second-leading receiver with 31 catches.


If he comes to the stadium today, focused and with something to prove to the people who have booed him this year, he could be the answer. He could open opportunities for his pal Darrell Jackson, and for possession receivers Rice and Bobby Engram.


Robinson can be exactly what he says he wants to be — the difference-maker.


After all the teases and the disappointments; after all the big catches and the drops; after coming this close to being the receiver they think he can be, then backsliding again, today is Robinson’s last best chance to redeem himself.


He had the talent to be everything he says he wants to be. Against the Arizona Cardinals, in a game that could be the salvation for this conundrum of a season, the future can be in Robinson’s hands.


Will he catch it? Or will he drop it?


Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.