RENTON — Russell Wilson is coming back from his finger injury sooner than a lot of people feared, given the complexity of his fracture. But once you get done venerating Wilson for the diligence of his rehab — a cottage industry on social media this week — a pertinent questions remains.
Is he coming back with enough time to save the Seahawks season?
If the Seahawks were hoping for a midyear jolt by signing Odell Beckham Jr. to galvanize them after a 3-5 start, that possibility evaporated Thursday while Wilson was on the podium. Word filtered out that Beckham had signed with, gulp, the Los Angeles Rams, one of the multitude of teams the Seahawks are trying to catch in the playoff race.
The good news for Seattle — maybe — is that Beckham isn’t going to be wearing a Green Bay Packers uniform Sunday. That’s when the Seahawks come out of their bye with a game at what has been a haunted venue for them, Lambeau Field. Early reports had Beckham focused on the Packers as his team of first choice.
But the bad news — maybe — is that instead of fulfilling Wilson’s desire for another receiving threat in Seattle, Beckham is joining their division rival, giving the Rams an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver.
I say “maybe” because there’s definitely a school of thought that the Seahawks dodged a bullet. That theory is that signing Beckham is subtraction by addition, given the possibility that his single-minded desire for the ball could cause dissension, especially on a team that has numerous other targets.
But it’s clear that Wilson, who personally tried to recruit Beckham to a Seahawks roster that already includes Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, doesn’t think that way. It’s also clear the Rams, who last week signed linebacker Von Miller, are making an aggressive Super Bowl push.
Wilson’s success rate on receivers he advocates the Seahawks to sign is considerably lower than his completion percentage. But he was in a buoyant mood nevertheless as he bounced down the aisle for his customary Thursday news conference at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. That role, like the starting quarterback job, has been manned by Geno Smith the previous three games.
“Haven’t seen you guys for a while!” Wilson said enthusiastically to the gathered media.
Wilson declared himself healthy and ready to go on Sunday in what shapes up as a showdown between two high-profile quarterbacks whose presence in the game had been up in the air. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, coming back from a COVID-19 absence, is also on track to play, while Wilson has returned to practice after the bye week with full intention of leading the Seahawks onto the frozen tundra.
“I’m not 100 percent yet, but I’m pretty dang close,’’ Wilson said. “I would say in the 90 percentile, if not higher. I feel great. I’ve got great conviction about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. My mindset is better than ever. I’m ready to roll and ready to go.”
Wilson was certainly in vintage form when it came to hitting his normal talking points about striving for greatness and maintaining a neutral mindset. And when asked why he believes the Seahawks are positioned to make a playoff run despite their sub-.500 record, he extolled the virtues of virtually the entire roster, in classic Wilson fashion.
But the overarching message resonated loud and clear: The Seahawks are not out of this thing yet. If they have a surge in them, it can’t wait any longer. The demarcation of the bye week, plus Wilson’s return (along with, potentially, running back Chris Carson and rookie wide receiver Dee Eskridge) makes this a logical jumping-off point, if there’s going to be any jumping done.
“You know, I feel like it’s a new beginning,’’ Wilson said. “It’s like it’s a new start, and I feel like it’s time to get going all over again.”
As bad as things have been, the Seahawks are only a game out of the playoff picture, due to struggles by other teams that have proven fortuitous for them.
As Tyler Lockett said Thursday, “We’re exactly where we need to be. You look at the playoff hunt, and people are 4 and 4, 4 and 5, 3 and 5, 3 and 6. … Everything is still on us. It’s not like we’re sitting here having to depend on people to lose, and this team to beat this team. I mean, it’s cool if it does work out that way. But we know that destiny is still in our hands.”
While the Seahawks need to accelerate the defensive uptick that seems to be in progress, no one is more essential to their fortunes than Wilson. Remember, they were just 2-2 (and headed toward another loss) with him at the helm this season, so “a new beginning” is a pertinent goal.
Wilson talked Thursday of working “literally 19, 20 hours a day” in rehab in an attempt to “break records” in the speed of his recovery. He talked of “playing the game in my head” while he was out to stay mentally sharp. He said the bye week was “God’s perfect timing” to allow for a final push at “an exponential rate” that cemented his readiness.
And now, unless there’s an unforeseen setback, Wilson returns on Sunday for the start of a nine-game playoff push by the Seahawks.
“We have a goal to win it all, and everything we want to do is right there in front of us,’’ he said.
The Seahawks won’t get a Beckham bump. But they hope the return of their quarterback is boost enough.