RENTON – After the Seahawks’ 31-10 exhibition win over San Diego on Thursday night, Seattle coach Pete Carroll briefly turned reporter.
He walked to the locker of receiver Stephen Williams, whose two catches for 83 yards sparked Seattle’s second-half offensive onslaught, and asked him the same question local media and fans have been wondering as well — what the heck went wrong during Williams’ three years in Arizona, anyway?
“I was just curious again what happened there because he looks like such a legit player,’’ Carroll said of Williams, whose blend of size (he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 208 pounds) and speed (Carroll said he runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash) has intrigued the Seahawks since they signed him as a free agent in January.
Williams looked like everything the Seahawks hoped for when they got him as he caught Tarvaris Jackson passes of 41 and 42 yards, the latter for a touchdown, in the process making a strong early claim for a roster spot.
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From the sidelines, starting quarterback Russell Wilson marveled at the two plays.
“His size is great, but his speed is really something that kind of opens yours eyes a little bit,’’ Wilson said. “He gets down the field so fast. The touchdown he caught, the (defender) was probably (lined up) 12 yards off of him and he just caught up to him so quickly. And that’s a threat because he’s great at stopping and starting, and he’s great at running comebacks, but also if he can run by a guy too, that’s a huge threat.’’
Sounds almost too good to be true to find just sitting there on the waiver wire.
As is usually the case, though, the back story reveals a little more than the Cardinals simply missing on Williams.
Williams, in fact, drew similar raves during his first training camp with the Cardinals in 2010 when he made the team as an undrafted free agent from Toledo. He started three games early in his first season when injuries hit other receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald.
But as Williams says, “You are not going to take Larry out of the game at any time.’’ And when Fitzgerald and other receivers got healthy, Williams went back to the bench, finishing the season with nine catches.
Williams was also credited with four drops that season, and reports at the time said the Cardinals wanted to see more consistency out of him. He also didn’t participate on special teams, and in 2011 he was on the roster for the entire season but played in just two games (often appearing on the inactive list), without making a catch.
He thought he was on his way to getting back in the rotation last August when he injured his Achilles tendon in a practice shortly before the season.
“Pulled it off the bone on a Thursday practice just doing one-on-ones,’’ he said.
The Cardinals eventually waived Williams in December, which immediately piqued interest in the Seattle front office.
Williams recalled that Seahawks general manager John Schneider “scouted me in college. So I always had a history with him.’’
Williams said he didn’t need long to take Seattle’s offer of a two-year contract worth $1.2 million. And once he showed he was healthy, he also began to again display some of the traits that had initially intrigued Arizona.
“I’ve always liked 6-5 guys at receiver,’’ Carroll said. “It’s worked out quite well in the past, and we’ve got kind of a thought and a role for guys like that, and he’s the only guy (on the Seattle roster) that’s kind of built like that.’’
The next step may be for Williams to show he can play some special teams, which may essentially be a requirement for the receivers at the bottom of the rotation.
“It is a factor, because some of the other guys (receivers battling for roster spots) are really good in special teams and he has to catch up a little bit there,’’ Carroll said.
The 27-year-old Williams smiled when asked about special teams. He’s begun getting some work as a gunner and said “I don’t mind it. It’s not something I look forward to every day. But I mean, to get the job done, I’ll play anything.’’
Mostly, though, the Seahawks want to see if the glimpse that Williams gave in San Diego can become a long-running show.
“He’s kind of been held under wraps for a while,’’ Carroll said. “We are going to find out. We are feeding the ball to him out here and like what he’s doing and he’s going to get a lot of action the next three games and see where he fits.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org