With the subtraction of a speedster (injured Tyler Lockett), followed by the addition of a legend (recently signed Devin Hester), it is easy to forget the Seattle Seahawks have a very important — and unsung — weapon back and healthy.
That is, until Luke Willson freely reminds you he has some juice built up for this NFC playoff run.
All the fourth-year tight end from Rice University seems to do is make big catches, even if they do not come in bunches.
After missing a month midway through the season with a sprained knee, Willson has finally returned to full health. And in two of the past three games, he has caught a touchdown pass from Russell Wilson.
“I’ve been with Russ for four years, so I feel like he’s got a pretty good idea (of me),” Willson said. “And I’ve got a good feel for him. ... I’ve gotten a couple of opportunities in the past few games, and I’ve made the most of it.”
Willson was injured on a run block during the fourth quarter of the Seahawks’ 26-24 victory over Atlanta on Oct. 16. Former tailback Christine Michael fell into the back of Willson’s leg after crossing the goal line on a touchdown run.
Willson admitted at the time he thought the injury was pretty severe. However, an MRI revealed he had merely suffered cartilage damage and stretched a few ligaments. He had a minor surgery performed two days later at Seattle Surgery Center.
He felt better immediately, and he kept telling fans he would return to the field in a week.
“I always say dumb stuff,” Willson said. “I’ve had some miraculous recoveries before. The trick is, it’s always happened to my ankle. I injured it so many times in college that I was used to bouncing back.”
Willson is not just a checkdown option in the Seahawks’ passing offense. In fact, he’s averaged 13.2 yards per reception. And of his 86 career catches, 54 of them have gone for a first down.
“Luke’s such a consistent player,” Wilson said. “He’s made some great catches. That touchdown he made last week (against San Francisco) … he ran a perfect route. He’s physical in the run game. He’ll do anything.”
When told roughly that 63 percent of his career catches went for first downs, Willson perked up. “Is that good?” he asked.
Jimmy Graham’s career mark is 68.5 percent.
“I am a bum out here trying to make the most of my opportunities,” Willson said.
CARROLL IN SHERMAN’S CORNER
As cornerback Richard Sherman continues his holdout on talking to the local press corps, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked Friday what he thought about the move.
Not surprisingly, the longtime coach supported his player.
“He’s got a mind of his own. He’s got a real thought about … trying to protect the integrity of what you say and how you get represented,” Carroll said. “He’s very bright. I support Richard, like I have supported him for a long time. I will continue to. I think he’s a brilliant kid. It doesn’t mean you guys are going to always see eye to eye on stuff.”
Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (head) was downgraded to out Friday, and won’t play against the Lions. Carroll said McDaniel suffered a concussion against the 49ers and had not made it out of protocol. That should mean more snaps for rookie Jarran Reed, who has started the past three games and played more snaps than McDaniel, 122-74. Reed is also known as a better pass rusher from the inside. … Carroll confirmed that Hester will be the primary punt and kickoff returner. The four-time Pro Bowl player was waived by Baltimore last month and signed by the Seahawks this week. “Everybody that we had here that was going to go did not have a lot of background, a lot of experience (returning kicks),” Carroll said. “So we felt like it was important to get that experience (in Hester) in the decision-making.” … Seismologists from the University of Washington will take real-time readings of ground vibrations during the NFC wild card game Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, all in an effort to measure crowd-racket impact. … As of 48 hours from kickoff, the weather forecast for Saturday night’s game called for roughly 35-degree temperatures and a slight chance of rain.