Only noble, almost unbelievable restraint kept Cliff Avril from drilling the Rams’ punter into 2016.
Johnny Hekker of St. Louis hit the Seahawks’ defensive end from the side unnecessarily while Hekker’s punt was airborne in the second quarter of Seattle’s 23-17 loss Sunday. Avril fell, got up — and looked incensed.
He approached the punter, then backed off to avoid a retaliation penalty.
“We had a ‘safe’ call on,” Avril said, meaning the Seahawks were guarding against one of the many fake punts St. Louis has pulled on Seattle over the years. “We’re just making sure he punts and I’m trotting down, and I see it’s a fair catch. Someone comes from behind and hits me. And it happened to be the doggone punter!”
Officials flagged Hekker for unnecessary roughness. That made Avril laugh.
“It was just a stupid move by him, I think, personally,” Avril said.
“He’s a punter!”
When the ball was again in the air, fellow Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett stalked Hekker like a lion versus prey on the Serengeti. Hekker saw Bennett approaching menacingly and basically curled up in the fetal position on the turf to avoid contact.
“Like a coward,” Bennett said.
It would have been even more comical for the Seahawks had they not been trailing 10-0 by then.
“He was scared. He squealed like a little girl,” Bennett said.
“To me, he’s trying to hurt Cliff. Cliff’s got a family, too. ... What if Cliff blew his knee out? Nobody said anything about that. But that’s just the kind of players they have on their team, people that do stuff like that.
“I don’t know what I would have done to him. I’m six years removed from the dude, where I come from. So I’m just trying to stay in the suburbs.”
Avril said Hekker, who is from Bothell, apologized to him afterward.
WILLIAMS’ LONG-AWAITED DEBUT
After practice Saturday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider called Kasen Williams upstairs to their offices.
“I knew what it was,” the former Washington Huskies wide receiver said Sunday, smiling over the moment.
The Seahawks had promoted him from their practice squad to make his NFL debut. He entered at wide receiver during Seattle’s last series of the first half.
In the third quarter, Williams’ block allowed Doug Baldwin to gain more than five additional yards following his catch, turning third-and-31 into fourth-and-3. Seattle converted that to set up Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Baldwin.
“I’d been waiting on it for a really long time — the past two years,” Williams said. “I’m just happy the hard work paid off. Quite honestly, it doesn’t really mean nothing until we get a win.”
Williams, the 2010 Parade magazine national high school player of the year out of Skyline, broke the fibula in his lower leg during a Huskies game against California on Oct. 26, 2013. He also sustained a ligament and bone displacement in his foot. His junior season at UW was ruined, so was much of his senior year and, thus, his shot of an NFL team drafting him.
Cincinnati signed him in May as an undrafted free agent, but its doctors got scared off by the pins in his foot. The Bengals failed him in a physical.
Seahawks doctors knew the surgeon who had operated on Williams’ foot; he advised them not to worry about the pins. And Carroll had recruited Williams when he was at USC a half-dozen years ago. Carroll signed him to the Seahawks on a minimum-cost, free-agent flyer.
“It’s great that I’m playing,” Williams said. “But in my mind this is where I was always supposed to be.”
Todd Gurley, the Rams’ likely rookie of the year, rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries. He entered the game with 1,023 yards rushing.
Seattle hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 games, the longest streak in the NFL.
“He’s average to me, personally,” the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett said. “He got a couple of big runs on miscommunication and misalignment, but I mean, I’ve seen better running backs in the NFL. It wasn’t Marshall Faulk to me, or Marshawn Lynch.
“He’s just a rookie … I had to tell him that, too: ‘You are just a rookie. You haven’t done anything.’ ”
Seven players got evaluated for concussions after getting hurt during the game, two days after the alarming film “Concussion” opened in theaters nationwide.
One was Seahawks tight end Luke Willson. That left Cooper Helfet as the only available, true tight end. Starter Jimmy Graham went on injured reserve last month, and Anthony McCoy’s season ended by going onto IR on Saturday.
Russell Wilson has 20 touchdown passes with one interception in his last six games. His first interception in 170 throws, the second-longest errorless streak in Seahawks’ history, came when he threw a third-and-long jump ball to Tyler Lockett that the Rams picked off at their own 13 in the second quarter. … The Rams sacked Wilson 10 times in two games this season. … All-Pro CB Richard Sherman was beaten for a rare touchdown when the Rams’ Kenny Britt sped past him for a diving catch in the end zone. That made it 16-0 for St. Louis in the second quarter. Sherman said bad footwork after missing a jam on Britt at the line was to blame. … DeShawn Shead started at right CB after spending the week competing for his job with Jeremy Lane. Lane entered as the inside nickel back on the game’s second play. … Alvin Bailey started for Russell Okung (calf) at LT and Kelcie McCray started for Kam Chancellor (pelvis) at SS. Coach Pete Carroll said Chancellor and Okung weren’t held out because the Seahawks already had clinched a playoff spot.