RENTON, Wash. -- The only other time Colin Cole missed a significant amount of a season was 2007, when an arm injury landed him on injured reserve and he knew there was no chance of returning.
So having to sit out the last five weeks with a serious high ankle sprain was extremely difficult for the Seattle Seahawks' starting defensive tackle.
"As far as something to work back (from) and knowing I'm coming back, this is the longest, and the toughest, knowing that I had the opportunity to come back," Cole said. "It was definitely the toughest thing having to sit back and watch the guys play."
Cole will play this week when the Seahawks try to stay on top of the NFC West when they face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Cole is listed as probable, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that the lineman will see a significant amount of action, and how much will be based on where his conditioning is at.
While Cole nearly is a certainty, the same can't be said of Seattle's top two wide receivers: Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu.
Carroll said Williams and Obomanu's status will be game-time decisions for the Seahawks. Williams has a sprained ankle and Obomanu a severe laceration on his right hand.
Carroll sounded more hopeful about Obomanu, saying his ability to play is mostly related to how he can tolerate the pain of catching the ball and taking hits. Obomanu is being fitted with special protection for his hand.
"He's got stitches in his hand (and) they're going to be there on game day," Carroll said. "We just got to see how it works for him and see how the little device they've been putting on his hand works out for him and all that."
Williams is much more of a question mark. He suffered a sprained left ankle on the first offensive series against the Carolina Panthers last week. He also has a sprained left foot.
Williams didn't practice this week, and Carroll said the Seahawks are moving forward thinking the receiver won't play, but a final decision will come Sunday.
"Mike's a little more of an issue because we've got to make sure he can run full-speed on Sunday," Carroll said.
The Seahawks hope Cole's return will help their run defense return to being the stout unit that started the season.
The shuffling of bodies needed to fill those two major gaps has led to the Seahawks' run defense taking a beating.
In the five games since Cole and Bryant went down, the Seahawks allowed an average of 130.2 rushing yards. At its high point early in the season, Seattle ranked second in the NFL at stopping the run. With four weeks left in the regular season, it's 21st.
"It seems like it's been an extremely long time. I've missed getting out there with the guys, and it's been pretty hard watching the games and watching your teammates and especially knowing that I couldn't help them as I would have liked to have," Cole said. "Hopefully I can help come back and contribute."
Cole's return also allows a bit of flexibility to return to Seattle's defensive line. While Cole was out, Junior Siavii filled in and played well, but the lack of depth became an issue. With Cole back, Seattle can rotate Siavii at defensive tackle but also use his bigger body at defensive end to help against the run.
"We're going to see on Sunday just like everybody else," defensive end Kentwan Balmer said. "Colin is a great player, Junior is a great player, we have a lot of good players on this defensive line. We'll see what happens."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press