Teammates think this is the year that Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright could finally get to the Pro Bowl.
With each year that he plays in the NFL, K.J. Wright sees the world a little differently.
On the field from his position as the Seahawks strongside linebacker, Wright’s vision and ability to diagnose plays is one of the most underrated reasons Seattle is leading the NFL in fewest points allowed for a fifth straight year.
Wright essentially took three points away from Tampa Bay Sunday when he made sure to tackle tight end Cameron Brate in-bounds on the final play of the second quarter, assuring that time would run out before the Bucs could try a field goal.
“A phenomenal play to knock the guy back and keep the clock going,’’ said coach Pete Carroll.
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It’s a play Wright says he wouldn’t have made when he entered the NFL in 2011.
“No,’’ he said. “Because it’s situational football.’’
Then Wright smiled and said getting attention for such a play means “everybody all the sudden thinks you are a good football player.’’
It was a wry commentary on the fact that Wright thinks he’s been a good football player for years now but people have only recently begun to notice, in part because he’s been put in position to make a few more plays this season (with the Seahawks blitzing a bit more this year, Wright already has a career-high sacks). Pro Football Focus this week rated Wright as the fourth-best linebacker in the NFL this season (teammate Bobby Wagner was third).
Teammate Richard Sherman, though, said he still thinks Wright doesn’t get anywhere near the attention he should for what he means to Seattle’s defense.
“Even though he’s playing at Pro Bowl level, he’s not going to get the recognition he deserves, which is unfortunate,’’ said Sherman, who several times has said he hopes Wright gets what would be his first Pro Bowl invite this season.
Wright said playing in the shadows of the likes of Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett and others doesn’t bother him.
“I guess when you get respect around the world it does feel good,’’ he said. “But at the same time I don’t go home and cry at night when it doesn’t happen.’’
No, when Wright goes home at night, what he does instead is hug his six-month old son, Kameron Joseph (while the initials of the son match those of his father, K.J. Wright’s full name is Kenneth Bernard Wright, Jr.).
Wright actually has another name for his son — “Big Man.’’
“Six months old wearing 12-month clothes,’’ he said with a smile.
Wednesday night, Wright said he was up at 3 a.m. getting his son back to sleep.
And while that might not have made Wright’s own wakeup call a few hours later any easier, Wright said fatherhood has opened his eyes in ways he could never have imagined.
“You just get a different view of things,’’ he said. “Whenever you lose, you are not as sad because you get to go home to someone who loves you and doesn’t care about football. So that is always good. It definitely changes your life drastically.’’
As did the call Wright got on draft weekend 2011 to come to the Seahawks.
Wright was one of the mid-round gems of the early Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, taken in the fourth round with the 99th overall pick out of Mississippi State.
Wright grumbles now that his time in the 40 (he was clocked in 4.75 at the NFL Combine) is why he fell as far as he did.
Says Wagner: “A lot of people sleep on his athleticism and his ability to cover tight ends, his ability to run sideline to sideline. He’s 6-4 (and 246 pounds) but he’s still extremely fast.’’
Wright initially played strongside linebacker, where his emergence as a rookie led to the decision to trade one-time first-round pick Aaron Curry.
Wright recalls that he was asked when he came to the Seahawks if he wanted to play middle linebacker or strongside and said strongside (or SAM). “And then the next year we drafted Bobby (to play middle) so it all worked out,’’ he said. “Glad I said SAM.’’
Wright was solid there, but his career really took off in 2013 when he moved to weakside linebacker (a spot that plays behind the line as opposed to the SAM) replacing the departed Leroy Hill.
Wright initially wanted to play the strongside backer spot, a position where he might have gotten more sacks.
Hill helped convince him he should try the weakside, or WILL spot, which can be called on to cover a tight end one play, rush the passer the next.
“My rookie year, he said the WILL is the best position because it’s a playmaking position,’’ he said. “It’s great for me.’’
Carroll’s not sure Wright’s ever been better than he was against Tampa Bay, when he was credited with eight tackles, two for a loss, as well as one pass defense and the tackle at the end of the half.
“Just all of the stuff that was put in front of K.J., he jumped up and made a big play,’’ Carroll said. “Knocked a guy down in the backfield, played reverses, knocked the ball down. All that kind of stuff. I just think he had the opps (opportunities) and his play has been really consistent.”
Sherman had another phrase for it — “robotic consistency. That’s what he has. He has consistency week in, week out, play in, play out, year in, year out.’’
And for that, Wright’s gotten the recognition he cares about most, from his teammates as well as the team itself, signing a four-year, $27.5 million contract extension two years ago.
And while he won’t cry, if no more honors comes his way, he also won’t turn them down.
Until then, his plan will remain the same as the one that got him this far.
“Just doing what I do man,’’ he said.