Traveling to ones old stomping grounds with a great deal on the line would be enough to make most folks a bit nervous, but Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll who was born in the Bay Area and coached the San Francisco 49ers defense in 1995 and 1996 was loosey-goosey enough to take a try at returning kicks during Fridays walk-through practice as his Seahawks prepared to travel to Candlestick Park. When Seattles newest special teams star was done with his reps and ready to give an injury update, we learned that receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obonamu, as well as offensive lineman Chester Pitts, would each be game-time decisions after missing Friday’s practice with various maladies.
We have to plan like hes not there, Carroll said of Williams, whos still trying to recover from an ankle injury, and fortunately, guys have practiced well. (Backup receiver) Ruvell Martin has done a nice job in that spot, and Golden Tates had a pretty good week, too. I think Bens going to have a chance to play in this game. Well see how it goes well have to adjust, but its not going to throw us off.
Carroll said that Obomanu, who suffered a nasty hand laceration on a play last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in which he was hung up between three defenders over the middle, has no trouble running in practice, but the team has to wait it out regarding his ability to catch the ball without exacerbating the issue. Williams actually ran a bit more last week, and Carroll did not sound as optimistic about his prospects.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Martin is a bigger target who may not have Williams ability to contort every which way for the catch and use his physicality to escape short-area tackling, but he does present different challenges for defenders based on his stature. Tate is still learning the game at the NFL level scouts knew that his development as a route-runner would be something to watch over time but it seems as if both players could rise up from bit roles to unexpected contributions under the right circumstances.
Ruvell is up for this game hes been in the game plan all week,: Carroll said. We really trust him, and hes done a good job all along, so hell be in the rotation (Obomanu) has stitches in his hand, theyll be there on game day, and well just have to see how that works out for him, and how the little device theyre putting on his hand works out. Weve been experienting all week, and everyone feels good about it. I think hes going to play.
On the defensive side of the ball, the full return of defensive tackle Colin Cole after five weeks out with an ankle injury, will give the Seahawks different options along their front seven. Thats just in time for a 49ers rushing attack that is missing Frank Gore, but still has speedster Brian Westbrook and rookie power runner Anthony Dixon to disrupt the Seahawks faltering run defense.
With Cole back at nose tackle, Carroll said on Friday that end/tackle Junior Siavii might be pressed into service at the 5-technique position that was manned so well by Red Bryant until Bryant was lost for the season. The Seahawks are looking for any port in a storm at that spot.
It does give us a little flexibility there, and thats something we wanted to do way back when, Carroll said of the Siavii move. We started that a long time ago, so it gives us a chance to play Junior outside.
Theyll be tinkering on both sides of the ball, and now is the time to do it. The 49ers, who are playing for any last vestige of postseason hope at 4-8 (only in the NFC West!), are the last supposedly easy mark the Seahawks see. Theyll then welcome the NFC-best Atlanta Falcons to Qwest Field, travel to Tampa Bay to face a very game Buccaneers team, and face off with the current division-leading St. Louis Rams in a regular-season finale that, if everything goes as planned for both teams, will essentially be a one-game elimination for the right to host a playoff game as division champs.
But first, its back in time, in team, and in town for Carroll. If the coach is reminiscing at all, it certainly doesnt come across. A more singular focus is the order of the day.
It all depends on how we play this weekend, and the week after, and we just keep marching, he said. San Franciscos the whole ballgame, and our guys now that this game is everything on the world right now.
Williams, Obomanu, and Pitts were the only three players not to practice on Friday. Players listed as Probable on Friday included Cole (ankle), Matt Hasselbeck (left wrist), John Carlson (hip), Roy Lewis (knee), Chris Clemons (ankle), Matt McCoy (head), and Lofa Tatupu (knee). Pitts was listed as Doubtful, and the Williams/Obomanu duo as Questionable. Nobody was listed as Out.
For the 49ers, kicker Joe Nedney and tackle Joe Staley are Out. Running back DeShawn Wynn (ankle) and cornerback William James (concussion) are Doubtful. Cornerback Nate Clements (knee), linebacker Parys Haralson (ankle), and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (groin) are questionable. Tackle Anthony Davis (back), receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder), cornerback Shawntae Spencer (quadriceps), linebacker Takeo Spikes (ankle), tight end Delanie Walker (ankle), and running back Brian Westbrook (non-injury related) are Probable.