Says Seahawks receivers coach Dave Canales: “They are like brothers, because they have spent so many years together. So it makes it really fun.’’
RENTON — First, Kasen Williams was called back by the Seahawks after failing a physical with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Then, after three months on the practice squad, he was called up to the active 53-man roster in late December, giving the Seahawks three former University of Washington players among their five-man receiving corps they will take into Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Carolina.
It was a call Williams made on draft day, though, that stands out most to Seahawks receivers coach Dave Canales.
After the draft, teams work feverishly to fill out the rest of their 90-man training-camp roster with undrafted free agents.
Most Read Stories
- No more flying with reindeer: Unique Alaska planes to retire VIEW
- ‘No more agriculture in Puerto Rico,’ a farmer laments
- Seattle to spend $177M on new streetcar line amid questions about ‘unrealistic’ revenue, rider projections
- Boeing’s next all-new jet moves closer to reality
- A daring betrayal helped wipe out Cali cocaine cartel
As the receivers coach, Canales was in charge of trying to recruit and sign a few undrafted free agents at that position. He estimates the Seahawks called 20 to 25 receivers with varying offers, including Williams.
Of those who went elsewhere, only one reached out to Canales personally to tell him of his decision — Williams.
“He called me back and he said, ‘Hey, Coach Canales, I want to thank you for thinking about me and the opportunity, but I think I have a better chance of making the Bengals’ team,’ ’’ Canales recalled.
“That meant a lot to me and said something about him and his character. I told him, ‘This is awesome. You are the only one who has called me back. Who knows, man — we could be working somewhere together again down the road.’ ’’
Down the road happened to be just a few days later. Williams failed his physical before officially becoming a Bengal, and when he did, he quickly agreed to take part in the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
Signed by the Seahawks to their 90-man roster a little later, Williams was released before the season, then re-signed to the practice squad. He was signed to the active roster Dec. 26 as part of a continuing makeover of the bottom of Seattle’s receiving corps.
Consider that half of the six receivers the Seahawks had on the active roster for the first game against Carolina on Oct. 18 are now on injured reserve (Ricardo Lockette) or gone (Chris Matthews, waived in November, and B.J. Daniels, who signed with Houston).
It’s that sequence of events that has led the Seahawks to now having 60 percent of their receiving corps from UW — Jermaine Kearse, Kevin Smith and Williams — creating what Canales says is “absolutely’’ a unique dynamic among the position group.
“They are like brothers, because they have spent so many years together,’’ Canales said. “So it makes it really fun.’’
Kearse plays the familiar role of older brother. He signed with UW in 2008 and was a junior when Smith arrived in 2010 and a senior when Williams came on in 2011.
Kearse blazed the trail with the Seahawks, as well, initially signing as an undrafted free agent, making the practice squad, then forcing his way onto the roster via special teams before becoming one of the team’s regular receivers.
“He did the same role that Kevin and Kasen are doing now,’’ Canales said. “They really take (what Kearse says) to heart.’’
Smith was called up after the release of Matthews and has been a regular on many special teams. He also had three catches in the regular season and another last week in the wild-card playoff win over the Vikings.
Canales said Smith quickly learned every Seahawks receiver position, which Canales says “is rare for a guy that young. He’s given us unbelievable flexibility.’’
Williams literally is Kearse’s understudy, serving as his specific backup. With Kearse, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett playing most of the snaps and Smith serving as a jack-of-all-trades backup, that has made it difficult for Williams to get on the field much. He has 32 snaps in three games, including four against the Vikings, and made his first NFL catch, for 8 yards, in the regular-season finale at Arizona.
He suffered a major ankle injury in 2013 at UW, which undoubtedly played a significant role in him going undrafted and having to travel the same path to the NFL as Kearse and Smith.
Canales said Williams has done extensive work with the Seahawks’ trainers since being signed and added that, “They’ve said he looks 60 percent better than when he got here.’’
Williams said recently that being on the practice squad all season and then getting his chance during the final weeks “is perfect timing. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.’’
It’s a role, he could say, he was called on to play.