Earl Thomas’ way is to hold out of training camp while angling for a renegotiation or trade. Wright’s way has been to be front and center when training camp began, eager to assert the leadership that comes with being an eighth-year vet.
The circle of life, K.J. Wright calls it.
Once, he was the wide-eyed rookie soaking in the wisdom from veterans Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane. Now, with Earl Thomas away, Wright is the senior member of the Seattle defense, happy to be the mentor to a new generation of young Seahawks.
“You don’t want to do it on your own,’’ he said. “You want to help guys be great.”
Even the ones that might be coming after his weakside linebacker job.
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“It’s all good, man. It’s all good,” Wright said quickly Friday, following the second workout of a new training camp. “I want every linebacker to do well. It’s not about whether my job is taken or not. I’ve had a stellar career. If that does happen, I’ll go elsewhere and be just fine.”
That’s a subtle reference, perhaps, to Wright’s unsettled contract situation. But otherwise, you’d never know that Wright, like Thomas, is entering the final year of his deal, a four-year contract he signed in September 2014. Though he reveres Thomas and respects his choice, Wright is showing there is another way to handle impending free agency.
Thomas’ way is to hold out of training camp while angling for a renegotiation or trade. Wright’s way has been to show up for every minicamp and organized team activity during the offseason, and to be front and center when training camp began Thursday, eager to assert the leadership that comes with being an eighth-year vet.
A day earlier, fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner had stood on a podium and asserted that he was willing and able to fill the defensive-leadership void left by the departure of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and, for now, Thomas.
“You guys are looking for someone who’s going to be that leader,” Wagner said. “Y’all don’t have to look. Y’all looking at the guy right here. I will be that guy, and we’re going to be fine.”
Wright, four days past his 29th birthday, a quiet, respected fixture on Seattle’s defense since being selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, said he’s going to be right there on the front line with Wagner.
“We talked in the offseason,” he said. “We knew we’re the leaders on the team. Guys are looking up to us. We’ve done it a long time. We have Super Bowls to our name. We have Pro Bowls to our name. We’re the guys. And so if the ship sinks, you can put that on us.”
Wright said he has not had any recent contract talks with the Seahawks. But rather than bristle at the inaction, he has a different point of view. He sees an opportunity to control his destiny in a year if no deal can be struck. That pleases, rather than perturbs, him.
“A lot of guys approach it differently,” he said. “You can approach it how you want to approach it. I’m approaching mine with peace.”
Wright is aware of how hard his NFL forebears fought to gain free agency. He spoke knowledgeably of the landmark 1993 court case, White v. NFL, a suit put forth by eventual Hall of Famer Reggie White, that allowed players the right to unrestricted freedom.
“Guys had to fight for it, and now that we got it, some guys don’t want to get there,” he said. “Guys’ lives can get changed with free agency.It’s not a bad thing. It can be a hell of a thing. It can be a great thing. You always want to look at things from a positive lens. It’s cool. Free agency is OK.”
Remaining in Seattle beyond 2018, he said, “would be cool. That would be good. But it’s not up to me. I’m going to control what I can control. I’m not going worry or stress or lose sleep over anything that’s not in my power.”
That’s the wisdom and perspective that comes with watching friends and integral members of the Seahawks’ foundation for so long, guys such as Sherman and Thomas, reach an impasse with management.
Wright’s focus is on adjusting to life without those guys, and without Chancellor, Avril and Bennett. Every new season brings a certain measure of change, but this year has rearranged the very fabric of a Seahawks era. For survivors such as Wright and Wagner, it is jarring.
“It’s just different, obviously from the personal standpoint, you just miss those guys’ presence,” Wright said. “You miss talking to them. Joking around with them. It’s different on the field because we played together. We played a long time together.
“Some things are just still missing. Kam would always make certain checks. Sherm would see some stuff I wouldn’t see. I’ve got to raise my game to make sure I see stuff they usually see. I’ve got to learn to play behind (different) D-linemen. I always played behind Cliff, so I have to learn to play behind new guys, how they move, facilitate, so I can get my job done as well.”
The good part is that Wright has attained the savvy that comes with missing just five of a possible 112 regular-season games over seven seasons, plus all those playoff runs.
Talk about the circle of life – it’s there in the attained wisdom that Wright draws upon. He has learned how to train, how to eat, how to prepare himself for optimal success.
“I’ve taken some scars,” he said. “I’ve been beat on some plays that I vowed never to get beat on again. I’ve learned what works for me.”
Wright is truly a man at peace with himself, his place in the game and his place on the Seahawks, however much longer he remains.
“When I was younger, I kind of envisioned this,” he said. “I envisioned myself as having a great career. I’m thankful God blessed me with good health and good talent. It feels good to be the vet, where guys are looking up to me, asking me questions. They see I played a lot, that I prepare myself to be a great pro, and they trust me when they come and ask me questions.
“I love that.”