Russell Wilson had something to prove when the rookie was named the Seahawks' starting quarterback. Teammates who might have been skeptical at first are behind Wilson now.
Slowly, by virtue of what coach Pete Carroll calls “an ongoing ascending process,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is winning over every skeptic.
Fans. Analysts. Opponents. Coaches. And, perhaps most important, teammates.
If there was any remaining doubt that Wilson had earned the complete confidence of even the most cynical Seahawks veterans, hearing their raves after he engineered Sunday’s overtime victory in Chicago likely erased that.
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That’s what happens when, as Sidney Rice said Wednesday, “With the pressure on, he’s never failed us. He’s brought us to the table every single time.”
Rice, in fact, says he sometimes forgets that Wilson is a rookie.
“He doesn’t carry himself like a rookie,” he said. “He’s never shown a sign of being scared.”
Added guard John Moffitt: “I think he’s just playing good football. What you do on the field is how you get respect.”
In the NFL, there is a natural tendency to look askance at any hotshot young kid who comes in. And for a quarterback, the need to prove oneself increases exponentially. But Wilson, a third-round draft pick, began almost immediately to show he belonged.
“When rookies come in, you see how they work,” said fullback Michael Robinson, who led the chorus of Wilson raves on Sunday. “You just watch them. He was a guy who didn’t try too hard to fit in. He just worked, and kept working, and kept working. Before you knew it, he was our starting quarterback. You turn around, and now he’s making plays. He’s just growing and improving every week.”
Robinson said he began to realize that Wilson was the real thing in his first preseason start, against Kansas City. The quarterback completed 13 of 19 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters, building a 44-7 Seahawks lead.
“He just came in and ripped it up, man,” Robinson said. “You got the hot hand like that, you’ve got to go with it.”
In his first regular-season start, against Arizona — the team the Seahawks play Sunday at CenturyLink Field — Wilson continued to grow the résumé. Rice pointed to the final, ultimately unsuccessful drive, in which Wilson drove the team inside the 10-yard line in the final minute with a chance for a go-ahead score. The Seahawks couldn’t get it into the end zone against the Cardinals, but Wilson’s poise won over Rice.
“That’s when I knew what he was capable of,” Rice said.
Wilson hasn’t been able to pull out every close game, but he has executed three game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. And even when they fall short, Wilson’s command of the situation has built rapport with his teammates.
“We’ve been in so many close games this year, it’s just been crazy,” said center Max Unger. “We’ve lost some of them, and pulled a couple of them out. Just to be put in those two-minute-drill situations over and over and have that success, it’s pretty impressive.”
If Wilson gets rattled, it’s not visible, said receiver Doug Baldwin.
“He’s the same person from first quarter to overtime,” Baldwin said. “I think that’s crucial when you’re looking at someone who has to stay calm, especially at the quarterback position. There is no roller coaster of emotion, or play. He just goes out and continues to grind. His calm demeanor calms everyone else down.”
It’s rare for a rookie to set that tone, but Carroll said he believes the team has acceptedWilson as its field general. The Bears game was an important step in that process, he said.
“This was a tremendous game for a kid to be in charge,” Carroll said. “Everyone’s been blown away by him. Every guy in the locker room has.”
Carroll acknowledged that the season began with skepticism about Wilson, including within the locker room.
“No doubt,” he said. “It’s natural. There’s a lot of people in here that were (skeptical). And not just in here. But keep watching him go. He’s going to make a lot of people that might have said something else change their mind a little bit. He’s done it right before our eyes, with great challenges and great consistency.”
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @StoneLarry