RENTON — The end of an NFL season is followed the next day by players cleaning out their lockers, holding exit interviews with coaches, being examined by trainers one last time, then heading out the door into the offseason.
And for all but one team, it’s a day that is tinged with a sense of longing for what might have been.
“It was a really good season,’’ said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson as he met with reporters in front of his locker less than 24 hours after a 28-23 defeat against Green Bay in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. “Would I say it was a great season? No. I would say it was a really good one, and we’ve got a lot more to do, a lot more things to focus on.’’
Wilson said those words only after he fulfilled another NFL ritual, having been called for a random drug test, a slip waiting for him when he showed up to talk to reporters. Wilson reacted with some mock incredulousness and told reporters to hang on for a few minutes before he’d return to talk.
When he did, he several times referenced quarterbacks he has long admired — Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning — and said it was during the time in their careers that he is now entering where their careers ascended to even greater heights.
“Brady, Manning, Brees, I think their years eight through 13, 15 were pretty special,’’ he said. “So I want to make sure that mine are pretty special and I think that we can go somewhere that not many have ever gone.’’
It was a call to arms a little bit different in tone than his talk to the media on the same day a year ago, when he was beginning negotiations for a new contract.
He eventually signed a new deal in April that takes him through the 2023 season and pays him an average of $35 million a season and makes him more invested than ever in the team’s future — that contract keeps him with Seattle until he’s 35 years old.
“Going into next year we’ve got to find ways to get better,’’ Wilson said. “Got to find ways to get past just the first or second round of the playoffs and get to the final push. That’s the reality.’’
Exactly what those ways are, though, Wilson said would need some time to figure out. But he said he’s confident the foundation is there for Seattle to win another Super Bowl.
As coach Pete Carroll did after the game, Wilson said this season reminded him of where the team was after his rookie year in 2012, when the Seahawks also went 11-5 and lost on the road in the divisional round in the playoffs.
Back then, he noted, the Seahawks responded by doing the things it took to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl the following year.
“The question for us is what are we going to do to take the next step?’’ Wilson said. “And I think that’s what we’ve got to figure out as players and as coaches and as a whole organization as we continue to try to be the best in the world.’’
That now will be the task of the next eight months or so before the Seahawks play another game that counts sometime next September.
Here are a few more notes from the players on locker clean-out day.
Wagner might skip Pro Bowl to deal with injuries
Wilson and Bobby Wagner were the only two Seahawks selected to play in the Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 in Orlando. Wilson said he will play.
Wagner said he might not, saying he might have to have some work done on his knee and/or ankle, two body parts that bothered him at times throughout the season. Exams Monday, he said, showed some things he hadn’t been aware of.
“I’ll be taking care of my body,’’ Wagner said when asked his offseason plans. “There is a lot of stuff going on that I didn’t know about so I’ll be taking care of myself health-wise.’’
Coach Pete Carroll, though, said he wasn’t sure if Wagner would need surgery.
“He found out today that there was something he didn’t even know that he had,” Carroll said. “. … I don’t think it’s going to require surgery. He didn’t even know he was hurt.”
Wagner said whatever the end result, none of it is major and shouldn’t be a cause for concern for next season.
Whichever Seahawks play in the Pro Bowl will have familiar coaches as Seattle’s staff will coach the NFC team due to having been the team that lost in the divisional round of the playoffs that had the most victories.
The Seahawks now have 19 players who can be unrestricted free agents, including three players who were regular starters on the defensive line — ends Jadeveon Clowney and Quinton Jefferson and tackle Jarran Reed.
Clowney said after the game he will consider Seattle and wants to play for a contender — but because this is his first time hitting free agency he’s likely to hit the market and see what happens.
Reed, who had 10½ sacks last season, had two this year after sitting out the first six games due to a league suspension for violating the conduct policy.
Reed said he’d like to stay but doesn’t know what will happen.
“I have no clue,’’ said Reed, a second-round choice in 2016 out of Alabama. “Of course (he’d like to stay). I’ve been here four years. I consider this home. Everything will take care of itself.’’
Offensive tackle George Fant also just finished his fourth season in the NFL and now is a free agent.
Fant started four games at left tackle in place of injured Duane Brown this season, including the wild-card playoff victory at Philadelphia and the almost-win against the 49ers in the final regular-season game.
Fant said he feels he’s proven he can start at left tackle and said that’s what he’ll be looking for in free agency.
“So have the opportunity to become a starter,’’ he said. “That’s the main thing for me.’’
Asked if that can happen in Seattle, Fant said: “We’ll see. Things change. Like I said, the ball is in everyone else’s court. I’ve done what I can do.’’
Carson shooting for training camp
Running back Chris Carson sat in front of his locker with crutches to his side and shoes in front, sorting out some old cleats he said he intended to donate to local high schools.
Carson missed the playoffs and the final regular-season game after suffering a fractured hip.
But he confirmed he will not need surgery and said the injury shouldn’t be a long-term issue and that he hopes to be cleared for the start of training camp.
“You never know,’’ Carson said. “But that’s the goal.’’