Dave Krieg took a break Oct. 7 from the usual activities that dominate his days when he returns to his native Wisconsin each summer and fall — fishing for musky and hunting for deer — to watch his former team, the Seahawks, play the Rams.

And when the former quarterback saw Russell Wilson smash his hand on the arm of Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and start shaking his fingers, hoping nothing was wrong, Krieg knew the feeling all too well.

“Just imagine the force of throwing the ball as hard as you can, and all the sudden something stops it, like somebody’s hand,” Krieg said, “It’s just amazing what it can do to your ligaments. And the pain … “

Krieg played 19 NFL seasons, including 12 with the Seahawks, and he left as the franchise leader in touchdown passes with 195 before being passed by Wilson (now with 277). Krieg said he never suffered the same injury as Wilson — dislocated and torn tendons and two small fractures in his middle finger.

But Krieg did suffer three significant injuries that interrupted seasons.

In 1982 and 1991, he broke his right thumb, once when he hit a defender’s hand throwing a pass and the other when he fell awkwardly while being tackled.

And Krieg missed seven games in 1988 because of a dislocated right shoulder suffered when he was slammed to the turf by Chargers defensive end Lee Williams, a play that makes Krieg laugh about how many flags might be thrown if the same play happened today.


It’s what happened after the injury that Krieg hopes serves as a parallel to Wilson’s situation.

The Seahawks were 2-0 when Krieg was injured but went 3-4 with Kelly Stouffer and Jeff Kemp playing while he was gone. Along with losing the Chargers game in which he was hurt, they were 5-5 when he returned.

Seattle, at least, was lucky that no other team in the AFC West had a better record, leaving all division and playoff hopes there for the taking.

And for the first time in Seahawks history, they indeed did the taking. A team reinvigorated by Krieg’s return went 4-2 down the stretch, scoring a combined 85 points in back-to-back wins against Denver and the Raiders to end the year — effectively knocking Seattle’s two biggest rivals at the time out of the playoffs — to score the first division banner in franchise history.

The NFC West title might already be out of reach for the 2021 Seahawks, who at 3-5 are 4.5 games behind 8-1 Arizona and 3.5 behind the 7-2 Rams.

But the addition of a third wild-card spot last year and an NFC in which there is a lot of parity after the top five teams mean the Seahawks can still realistically think playoffs, especially now that Wilson — the team’s unquestioned leader — is back.


By the time Krieg was injured in 1988, no one questioned his standing on the team, either. He had overtaken the franchise’s first big star, Jim Zorn, for the starting job in 1983 and had led the Seahawks to the playoffs three times. He also had overcome a surprising two-game benching in 1986 to reassert himself as the team’s leader.

Despite that, Krieg said he felt some nerves when he made his return for a Week 11 game against a good Houston team that would win 10 games.

“You get antsy — I’m sure Russell is, too,” said Krieg, who had been available to play every game from 1983-87 before being injured in 1988. “You want to get out there.”

In Krieg’s return he threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter as the Seahawks beat the Oilers 27-24 in a hard-fought game.

“What helps is if when you do come back you win right away, and then maybe you win another one, and (teammates) are like, “Man, we did miss him,'” Krieg said with a laugh.

Krieg said being forced to watch might have helped give him a different view of the game.


“It’s not bad sitting on the sideline, either, even for a guy like Russell, because once you are out there playing all the time you don’t have a chance to look at it from the outside in during a regular-season game,” Krieg said. “And then when you do it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You see things a little bit bigger and clearer, and you understand that just taking the simple stuff is really the answer. I don’t know why quarterbacks try to go for the gold all the time, but we do. But taking the simple stuff can be better.

“I’m sure he learned something from watching, like the interaction on the sidelines, what happens when the offense scores. It could be a silver lining that he’ll see something different.”

Something, certainly, clicked for Krieg once he returned, as he had two of the best games of his career down the stretch:

  • A five-TD game in a 35-27 win over the Raiders on Monday night (the defense holding Bo Jackson to 31 yards on 13 carries and getting revenge for Jackson’s memorable 91-yard TD in the Kingdome the year before).
  • And throwing for 410 yards and four TDs in a showdown in L.A. with the Raiders a few weeks later on the final day of the season to clinch the division title.

Can Wilson lead the 2021 Seahawks to a similar post-injury surge?

He at least appears to have crossed the bigger hurdle, of recovering well enough to play.

Wilson proclaimed himself as “dang close” to being 100% Thursday, and coaches and teammates said he looked the same.

And in comments this week via a YouTube video, Dr. Jerry Huang, an orthopedic surgeon at UW Medicine’s Hand, Elbow & Shoulder Center, said there are no medical reasons Wilson shouldn’t have “a smooth return.”


“Assuming he has his range of motion back, (and) assuming he’s pain-free, I think we can be pretty confident that Russell’s going to be back to his old self,” Huang said.

Huang said the main concern is that there is a greater risk of re-injury in the first three months following surgery.

“It takes the body about three months for a tendon to heal, the bones to heal,” Huang said.

But then Huang noted that Wilson has already beaten the medical odds of what was thought to be a recovery that he said would “typically” take eight weeks by returning in five.

“That’s an extremely fast recovery,” Huang said, before noting that maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. “ … In some ways he’s built differently than you or I. He heals faster. That’s simply the reality of it that athletes are just built a little bit differently.”

The Seahawks needed every bit of it, too.

Though backup Geno Smith did an admirable job in his place, Wilson is being paid $35 million a year for a reason.


And Seattle now faces what looms as an especially pivotal two-game stretch — games at 7-2 Green Bay and then at home vs. the Cardinals.

According to ESPN’s Playoff Probability Leverage model, a win for the Seahawks this week would improve their odds to make the playoffs by 24%, the largest potential swing of any NFC team this week.

Krieg’s 1988 recovery and rebound is immortalized in a banner that hangs at Lumen Field and the VMAC — and for 11 years stood as the only one before Seattle finally won another division title in 1999. Sadly for the ’88 Seahawks, the season ended with a divisional playoff loss at Cincinnati.

Krieg might have been there to watch it in person if he hadn’t just headed to his winter home in Arizona, where he considers himself mostly retired other than a property management business he helps run with another former Seahawk, Sam Merriman.

He’ll be watching from the desert and says he’s confident that Wilson — who had the best passer rating of his career at 125.3 with a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio before he was injured — can pick up where he left off.

“I was fortunate that we weren’t too far away where we could still be competitive,” Krieg said. “And then you get back out there it just kind of rejuvenates you, like you took a break for a little bit. I see Russell having no problems at all.”