A recap of the day’s activities:
Ray Willis. The flipside to not having Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones this season has been Willis finally getting on the field as a fulltime starter and fulfilling the potential he displayed during his first four seasons with the Seahawks.
First, Willis stepped in at right tackle, because Sean Locklear moved to the left side to replace Jones. Then, Willis replaced Jones as one of the offensive co-captains. This week, Willis got a game ball for his efforts in last week’s win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Willis is starting next to rookie guard Max Unger, who was inserted into the lineup after a shoulder injury forced Mike Wahle to be released just before training camp opened in late July.
“Had Mike Wahle been here, who knows where Max would be. Would he be playing or would he be backing up?” coach Jim Mora said after practice – the team’s last one before Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston.
“Had Walter been healthy and stayed, I don’t know how it would have looked. So if there’s a silver lining in anyone’s injuries, it’s the fact that Max Unger is going to get a whole year of experience under his belt, and Ray Willis is getting to play a lot.”
As for the co-captainship, Willis finished third in voting among teammates prior to the season. So when Jones couldn’t play because of problems with his surgically repaired left knee, Willis was elevated to share the honor with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck – just like defensive end Patrick Kerney replacing Lofa Tatupu after the middle linebacker was lost to a shoulder injury six games into the season.
“Ray is a strong presence in the locker room,” Mora said. “The guys listen to him and he’s got toughness, and we’re looking for toughness.”
Said Willis, “I guess my teammates just have a little respect for me. I’m just trying to go out there and do everything I can to help this team win games. It’s a great honor for me.”
Then there was that game ball, the first Willis can remember receiving since “probably high school.”
In typical Willis fashion, he put team and unit first – and in as few words as possible.
“I’m just one member of our offensive line and it’s more important that we play well as an offensive line to me than really anything,” he said. “And then coming up with the win. Any time you get a game ball for a win, that’s what’s most important.”
The ball is displayed on his mantle. “It’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
One last factor in Willis’ memorable week: He’s from Angleton, which is 30 minutes from Houston. So his parents and other family members will be at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
The defensive game balls the past two weeks have gone to free safety Jordan Babineaux.
“We don’t very often give the game ball out to the same guy two weeks in a row, but he legitimately deserved it,” Mora said of Babineaux, who had a team-high nine tackles and forced a fumble against the 49ers.
As nice as two in a row is, Babineaux wants to make it a hat trick. Greedy? No, it’s just that he’s from Port Arthur, which is one hour east of Houston. He had to get 28 tickets to Sunday’s game for friends and family.
“I’ve got a homecoming this week, so let’s see if we can go for three,” the team’s leading tackler said.
The special teams game ball went to punter/holder Jon Ryan, who was profiled Thursday on Seahawks.com.
“It was tough, because both of our kickers were certainly superb,” Mora said. “But we gave it to Jon Ryan because he just did a really great job of holding and of changing field position.”
Running back. Julius Jones returned last week after missing almost three games because of a bruised lung. Justin Forsett had a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts in his absence, but he was limited to five carries against the 49ers after straining a quad in practice.
So, who starts this week? “It depends on what personnel group we’re in,” Mora said. “It does. But you’ll see them both and we like them both.”
Asked how the rotation would work, Mora offered, “We’ll see as the game goes on. It depends on what plays we’re dialing up, what personnel groups we’re in. We have certain things that we do with certain guys, so it’ll just depend on how we put that together. You’ll see them, absolutely.
“I know what your question is: Are we going to see more of Justin? And the answer is yes, absolutely.”
The official end-of-the week report, as released by the team:
LB D.D. Lewis (knee)
QB Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder)
DE Cory Redding (concussion)
C Chris Spencer (thumb)
Lewis, who had fluid drained from his knee Wednesday, will be a game day decision, Mora said. But Lewis is pushing to play because he is from Houston – as is Redding, who sat out last week because of his concussion.
For the Texans, DE Tim Bulman (hamstring) is out and DE Mario Williams (groin) is questionable. Williams, who leads the Texans with six sacks, was limited in practice today. Four players are listed as probable – QB Matt Schaub, who dislocated his left shoulder last week but returned to the game and has practiced all week; LT Duane Brown (knee), LB Brian Cushing (foot) and CB Grover Quin (head).
YOU DON’T SAY
“Matt is a very talented player. He’s very talented. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s extremely smart. We have a lot of respect for him. I personally have a lot of respect for him, having known him since he came into the league. He’s a tall order for us. He’s a really good player.” – Mora on Schaub, who he coached while with the Falcons