By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND – The most eagerly anticipated start of the Seahawks’ youth movement could come this Sunday, and at the expense of the team’s most impressive streak.
An injury to the big toe on Ricky Watters’ right foot might end his 106-game streak of consecutive starts, the longest among NFL running backs. Watters did not practice Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
“I know he has a wonderful streak going, but if he can’t play, I’m not going to put him at risk,” coach Mike Holmgren said.
Although Watters is listed as questionable, meaning he has a 50 percent chance of playing in the game, teammates don’t expect the streak to end.
“Hell, no,” wide receiver Derrick Mayes said. “Ricky’s gonna be there.”
“He’ll be fine,” quarterback Jon Kitna said after Wednesday’s practice. “He felt like if he had to play today, he could have played. He’ll be ready to go. I don’t think you can get concerned about Ricky.”
If Watters can’t go, rookie Shaun Alexander will make his starting debut. Because Watters has been so successful this season – he ranks sixth in the AFC with 659 rushing yards – Alexander has not been pushed into the starting lineup despite the team’s 2-7 start.
After being patient for nine games, Alexander is ready to make his first start if needed. But he’s not counting on it.
“Ricky’s going to start, don’t worry about it,” Alexander said. “Y’all are fooling yourselves.”
And if he doesn’t?
“He will,” Alexander said with his trademark smile. “Trust me, he will.”
Alexander has gained 237 yards on 43 carries this season for an average of 5.5 yards per attempt, but he has also fumbled twice. Despite the turnovers, Holmgren has faith in his top draft choice.
“I don’t think he is a fumbler,” Holmgren said. “The last two times, he was looking (away), and he got hit out of his vision. Those things happen. But it also teaches you you’ve got handle the ball a certain way.
” … He’s obviously a first-round draft choice. He’s going to be a starter in the league. He has Pro Bowl potential, in my opinion.”
The last time Watters missed a start was Christmas Day 1993, during his third season with the San Francisco 49ers. Since then, Watters has started 106 consecutive times for three different teams – including all 41 of his games as a Seahawk.
“His toe is bothering him. But I suspect he’ll do whatever he has to do to be in the starting lineup Sunday,” Holmgren said. “And if he can play, I’ll start him. I’m not out to end his streak. I don’t want to do that.”
Huard laughed with his fellow quarterbacks, then faced the media for the first time in nearly two weeks.
“This is the best I’ve felt,” Huard said. “Most of my symptoms have cleared, and now I’m in the clear. Now it’s full steam ahead.”
Huard said he’ll probably begin running within the next two days, and he hopes to play in next week’s game at Jacksonville. Although he’d prefer to look ahead, Huard is disappointed at the playing time he has missed.
“I’m not losing the entire year, and that’s the one thing that’s most important,” Huard said. “I want to come back fully healthy and not come back partly healthy, get hurt, and then miss the whole year. I’m going to come back.
“We still have seven games to play, and I’m excited for that. I’ve obviously missed out last week and it looks like this week, but I’ve still got six great opportunities to play. I can’t wait to get back out on the field and do something.”
Huard suffered the concussion in a 31-3 loss to Oakland on Oct. 22 and has been out of action since. He has suffered from dizziness and headaches during the past 10 days and did not remember how he got the concussion until watching game film a few days later.
His teammates are happy to have him back, even if Huard doesn’t play this weekend.
“He’s back to his joking self,” said Kitna, who is expected to start in Huard’s place Sunday. “He put Flex-All in one of the other quarterback’s pants today, so he’s back to himself.”
Chargers coach Mike Riley announced Wednesday that Jim Harbaugh will make his fifth consecutive start while Leaf rests the injury, which he suffered in a Sept. 24 game against the Seahawks. Riley said Leaf is nearly 100 percent, but added that another week of rest will be for the better.
“I want him to be good and ready when he comes back,” Riley said.
Huard is expected to miss his second consecutive game due to the concussion. He did not practice Wednesday and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game, meaning there is only a 25 percent chance he will play.