Getting leading receiver Mike Williams back for Sunday’s game

Getting leading receiver Mike Williams back for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers would be huge for the offense as the Seahawks look to snap a two-game losing streak.

Mike Williams was conspicuous in the locker room on Friday, because of the crowd of reporters gathered around his cubicle.

That’s because the Seahawks’ leading receiver had just practiced for the first time since straining his left foot two weeks ago in the game against the Saints in New Orleans, and it appears that Williams will play in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field.

“At this point, we’re counting on him to play,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve got to get him through the warm-ups and see what happens, and what happens after today’s running around and all that.

“But if he can run in pregame, then he’ll play.”

The look of determination on Williams’ face as he answered questions for reporters indicated that he will find a way to play in this pivotal game, as the 5-6 Seahawks try to snap a two-game losing streak and pull themselves back to .500.

“I ain’t right, but I think I’m good enough,” he said. “So I hope I can talk them into letting me go. So we’ll see.”

Williams attempted to make the conversation about the team, not just him.

“I just want to win, man. I just want to win,” he said. “What it really comes down to is I’m one of 11. So it takes everybody doing their job right.”

But he also admitted, “It was hard watching last week.”

And he is able to grasp the impact his presence could have made during the 42-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“People always say, ‘Well, if I was out there, this would be this, this and that,’ ” Williams said. “It’s hard to say what the outcome would have been, but I know how this offense goes and what we like to do. So I know we would have stayed on the field a little longer.

“And who knows? The more opportunities, the more plays you’ve got, who knows what could have happened.”

His return after sitting out last week’s loss should help whatever the Seahawks try to do against the Panthers. He leads the team with 52 receptions – almost twice the number of Deon Butler, who ranks second with 27.

“It’s a big factor. He’s become that on offense,” Carroll said of Williams’ likely return. “Like I’ve said, Matt (Hasselbeck) has kind of zeroed in on him as a target that he likes going to, and that’s a big deal to a quarterback. So it’ll help us and hopefully we can get him out there.”

The fact that 6-foot-5 Williams’ is a big target plays directly into Hasselbeck’s fondest for going to him. Williams caught six passes for 109 yards, including a 68-yarder, before going out against the Saints. He also has had 11-, 11- and 10-catch games this season, as well as 145- and 123-yard receiving games.

Asked this week if he learned anything about his receivers without Williams in the mix, Hasselbeck offered, “Well, it was a tough deal not having Mike. He’s been a great player for us. He’s come out of nowhere and done a great job.”

Williams, who also played for Carroll at USC, was out of the league for two years before signing with the Seahawks in April – after being given a tryout during a minicamp. But he has stepped up, and stepped into a leading role for the Seahawks.

“I think our offense, as we’re trying to figure out who we are, has become something of the style of player that Mike is at that weak-side receiver position,” Hasselbeck said. “Without him in there, it changes who we are a little bit – our personality and what we can do, what we’re good at.

“So it’s different. It’s definitely different. It’s not like we have another guy around that’s sort of like him. There’s really no one like him.”

Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates can only concur with that assessment.

“He’s been a huge factor this year, obviously,” Bates said. “We’ve thrown to him over 50 times. So when you lose that, guys have to step up.”

Ben Obomanu has done just that, catching 14 passes for 306 yards the past three games, after having six receptions for 84 yards in the first eight games. So has Brandon Stokley, who has 11 receptions for 127 yards the past two games – compared to 11 for 134 in his first five games with the team.

But having Williams’ large presence in the mix will only help the other receivers.

“I think there’s a presence that the big receiver gives you that’s unique,” Carroll said. “It’s a unique quality that I’ve loved about our style of play when we’ve had guys like that over the years. You can just go to him. You can throw the ball at them whenever you need to and they’ll likely make a play for you.

“Mike gives us that. So we missed it. Basically, we just missed the consistency of that.”