SEATTLE — After he participates fully in a football practice for just the second time since October, it is pointed out to Kasen Williams that his leg muscles appear to be returning.
He laughs at this observation.
“Right? A lot of calf raises,” Williams said.
It has been more than nine months since the Washington Huskies senior receiver lined up against California, leaped to catch an underthrown pass, landed awkwardly on the Husky Stadium turf and suffered a severe injury to his foot and lower leg.
That was Oct. 26. Then came surgery. In the weeks that followed, Williams attended UW’s practices, walking around on a high-tech, hands-free crutch that gave the appearance of a peg leg.
By spring, Williams was out of his cast and jogging and running routes, playing catch when he could, though he still wasn’t ready to put on pads and go through a full practice.
And by his own estimate, the former Skyline High star is now at about 85 percent of full strength, and at about 80 percent of top speed.
For Aug. 5, that’s good enough, especially for a player with three seasons, 142 catches and 13 touchdowns to his name. Williams also turned in one of Tuesday’s most impressive plays, catching a well-thrown ball from quarterback Jeff Lindquist for a long gain up the sideline.
But he knows there is plenty of work to do before the Huskies’ opener at Hawaii.
“As long as I’m 100 percent by Aug. 30, we’re all right,” Williams said.
Running in a straight line, he doesn’t think about the surgery and the pins and the plates. It’s when he cuts, or jumps to catch a pass, that those thoughts enter his mind.
He tries to quickly extinguish them. The more passes he catches without incident, the more quick moves and jukes he makes without pain, the easier that task will be.
“Sometimes when I go up for a ball, I think about it on my way down,” Williams said. “But just with more repetition, those thoughts are going to go away, so I’m not worried about that at all.”
Instead, he’s worried about continuing the rehabilitation process. Coaches still remind him to visit the training room for massages, making sure the scar tissue heals. He receives acupuncture therapy. And his practice routine is probably a little more arduous than it is for the rest of his teammates.
“When I run and stuff I don’t really feel it as much as before. I would just say in order for me to really get all that out, I’ve got to be out here earlier, just taking a little bit longer to warm up and things like that,” Williams said. “Every once in a while, I do feel it if I cut a little harder than I want to, or what have you.”
Williams isn’t the only UW player returning from an injury that kept him out of spring practices. So, too, are offensive linemen Dexter Charles (shoulder) and Micah Hatchie (shoulder), full-time starters a year ago who are likely to resume those roles in 2014.
Eventually, anyway. Both have been practicing with the No. 2 offensive line so far in camp, though Charles shrugs that off.
“It’s Day 2,” he said.
The fourth-year junior guard from Camano Island said his shoulder feels “great,” and that he hopes an offseason of eating and eating and eating – he’s listed now at 6-foot-5 and 311 pounds, up 22 pounds from last season – helps him play stronger.
“It’s something I was definitely trying to do,” Charles said. “I talked to (strength coach Tim) Socha and I talked to (offensive line coach Chris) Strauss(er) about it.
“I felt like I’d play more comfortably at a heavier weight, and I wouldn’t be struggling as hard with pass-rushers and stuff.”