They said it would happen, so it wasn’t exactly out of the blue.
Yet when defensive tackle Jesse Williams stepped into the Seahawks’ defensive huddle midway through the second quarter of Friday night’s exhibition opener against Denver at soggy CenturyLink Field, it was remarkable. Almost unbelievable, really.
No one — not even the third-year man from Australia by way of junior college and then the University of Alabama — was thinking about him playing in this game 2 1/2 months ago.
Then, he was just trying to conquer cancer and learn to live with just one kidney.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
“I didn’t really feel it so much before. I think it felt really real when they took the catheter, that was probably the realest part,” Williams said of his realization then. “It definitely was a little bit of a shock, coming out and having cuts all over me and stuff like that.
“But I bounced back pretty quick. I ran out of there the day after and was moving around pretty good, so I’ve just tried to progress every day to get back to the field.”
He just did. And thanks to surgeons and the University of Washington Medical Center and follow-ups with the staff at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance he praises like saviors, No. 90 was shedding blockers and chasing down ball carriers in his first game since August 2013.
He’s been sidelined his first two NFL seasons with Seattle by knee injuries.
“What a story,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “What a story.”
Asked if getting cancer made him doubt he’d ever play again, Williams shook his head.
“I didn’t even really think about it. I try not to deviate my mind from the goals and the plan that I set already. The team believed in me and they gave me a chance. You know I had a pretty rough start already. Hopefully getting rid of the bad kidney got rid of a bit of the bad luck I had as well, so I’m looking forward to progressing and staying out there as best I can.”
MARSH KEEPS “HAULING TAIL”
Last week Carroll mentioned how second-year defensive end Cassius Marsh was “hauling tail,” speeding around offensive linemen in training camp. Marsh said he’s faster than he’s ever been, the result of extra, specialized training in explosiveness such as jumping boxes at a performance gym in Anaheim in his native Southern California. That was his prescribed recovery from the broken foot that ended the 2014 fourth-round draft choice’s rookie season three months early.
Carroll’s question was whether Marsh would continue showing such speed in games.
He did Friday. Marsh entered on the Seahawks’ second defensive drive — among the starters — and immediately did just what he’s been doing on the fields at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center all month. He sprinted past Denver’s starting right tackle Ryan Harris and pressured quarterback Brock Osweiler on his first play. He was in Denver’s backfield twice on that first drive, and again on the next one.
If Marsh keeps that up, he could be an outside force with Cliff Avril, allowing usual end Michael Bennett to go back inside over slower guards on passing downs as he did successfully last season. It could also free Bruce Irvin, who had a hit on Osweiler in the first half, to roam all over the field as a wild-card pass rusher. And adding Marsh to the pass-rush mix would mean Bennett and Avril wouldn’t have to play the 80-plus percent of snaps they had to last season.
That freshness and deep defensive-line rotation was the Seahawks’ recipe to their dominant front in their 2013 Super Bowl-winning season.
Mohammed Seisay became the latest defensive back injured when he got a groin injury in the second quarter and did not return. The second-year cornerback from Nebraska arrived a couple weeks ago when Seattle sent a sixth-round pick to Detroit for him. The “Legion of Boom” was indeed the “Legion of Whom.” Its starters Friday: Cary Williams and Marcus Burley (for injured Richard Sherman, strained hip flexor) at cornerback, DeShawn Shead for holdout Kam Chancellor at strong safety. … Shead got beaten down the seam in the second quarter for a touchdown pass that gave Denver a 19-10 lead at the half. … Backup QB Tarvaris Jackson entered on Seattle’s third offensive drive and played through the first drive after halftime. He left with an ankle injury of unknown severity after completing just one of six passes for 8 yards. Seattle scored no points with Jackson running the offense. … Undrafted rookie backup LS Nate Boyer, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who served multiple tours in the Middle East before walking on at the University of Texas, led the Seahawks onto the field before kickoff carrying a large American flag. Boyer’s first appearance came 4:50 into the third quarter, an accurate snap on Steven Hauschka’s second field goal that made it 19-13.