Thirty-one days following surgery to repair a ruptured tendon and dislocation in his right middle finger, there Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was again flinging passes “all over the place” in Pete Carroll’s words Monday afternoon at the VMAC in Renton.
“This is a remarkable story of recovery,” Carroll said of Wilson. “He did really well for the first time out in a limited amount of plays.”
Earlier in the day, Wilson had been officially cleared to return to practice and then designated as coming off injured reserve. That opened a 21-day window for Wilson to practice before he would have to be activated to the 53-man roster.
But Wilson himself set the expectation he will return for Sunday’s game at Green Bay when he posted a short video to Twitter captioned “It’s Time” that included a shot of Lambeau Field.
Carroll was not ready yet to declare Wilson was definitely playing Sunday, saying, “We’ll go one day at a time here.”
If Wilson shows what the team seems to expect, then he’ll return to the starting lineup Sunday after missing three games.
“He’s not coming back just to practice,” Carroll said. “We’ll see what happens as the week goes on. Give us days to figure that out. But the intention is that if he’s OK, he will play.”
During a 15-minute session of practice open to media, Wilson took snaps and made throws along with fellow quarterbacks Geno Smith, Jacob Eason and Jake Luton.
He did so with no covering on the hand, other than what appeared to be a flesh-covered bandage on his middle finger, with Carroll saying that for now Wilson has no plans to wear a glove.
“As you can imagine, we have talked about as many alternatives as we could come up with,” Carroll said. “He’s exploring all kinds of thoughts. But he doesn’t need anything, really. He was fine today. But maybe we’ll gain some more information as we go through the week and see what that means. I don’t know. The speculation about what could go, we’re thinking of everything you could possibly think of.”
Wilson was injured in the third quarter Oct. 7 against the Rams and had surgery the following day in Los Angeles to repair what was officially termed an exterior tendon rupture (mallet finger) and a comminuted fracture-dislocation of the proximal interphalangeal joint. The surgery was performed by Dr. Steven Shin at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan Jobe Surgery Center in Los Angeles.
After it was reported Monday that Wilson had been cleared to return to practice, the Seahawks released a statement quoting Shin saying he was “absolutely amazed” at Wilson’s progress, and that, “I can now confidently clear him for full return to play without reservation.”
Some reports at the time stated that Wilson might miss as many as six weeks. Seattle having its bye Sunday proved fortuitous, and Wilson had been reported from the start as hoping to miss just three games and return for a showdown against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
“Although this was uncharted territory (I have never in my career seen such a severe injury to the throwing hand of an NFL quarterback), I have also never encountered a player so committed to his postoperative therapy and with so much conviction to return to the same, if not better, level of performance as he had pre-injury,” Shin said in the statement released by the team.
Carroll likewise expressed his admiration for the zeal in which Wilson approached his recovery.
“Knowing Russ, this was the week that I was thinking if he could pull off something miraculous, then this would be the week he could play,” Carroll said. “And just judging from the six- to eight-week thing with broken bones that everybody’s aware of, that’s kind of how you can look at it in one end of it. But we thought, what could be the earliest he could possibly do it? Could he possibly pull it off? And he did. And just to make it a practice today, he looked great out there today. So that’s an enormous accomplishment. … He wanted to play yesterday if he was able to.”
With Wilson out, Geno Smith started the past three games for the Seahawks. Seattle went 1-2 — three-point losses to the Steelers and Saints and a 31-7 win over Jacksonville.
Wilson continued to attend all practices and games. He worked out separately from the team during practice, and he conducted extensive workouts on the field before games. Now, he appears to have hit his planned goal of missing just three games — the only three he has not started in his 10-year NFL career. His injury snapped a streak of 149 consecutive starts dating to the first game of his rookie year in 2012.
Carroll said the determining factor in whether Wilson plays Sunday is simply how Wilson responds each day from the work the day before.
“Just watching how he recovers from the work,” Carroll said.
But that Wilson already began ramping up a throwing program last week with no apparent setbacks is a positive sign.
With Wilson returning to practice, the game could still feature the Wilson-Rodgers matchup everyone anticipated all along.
Rodgers missed Green Bay’s loss Sunday at Kansas City after testing positive for the coronavirus.
And because he is unvaccinated, he has a 10-day protocol he has to go through before he can return. But if he does, then he would be eligible to return Saturday and play Sunday.
And the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Rodgers appears on track to complete that process, which includes being symptom free and cleared by an independent doctor.
And while that means he won’t practice all week, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after Sunday’s 13-7 loss to the Chiefs that if Rodgers is eligible to play, he will start against Seattle. Second-year QB Jordan Love made what was his first career start in place of Rodgers.
“He’s our starting quarterback,” LaFleur said of Rodgers. “I think he’s gone through enough where, yeah, you’d like guys to practice all week long. But I don’t think it’s absolutely imperative to be able to do that. We just have to make sure he’s well in-tune with our plan and he feels good about it, and that we Zoom him in for the meetings or whatever it may be. But we’ll see where we’re at toward the end of the week.”
Carroll said Monday that the Seahawks “are going to prepare like we’re going to see their best guys and expect that we’ll see Aaron back out there.”
Rodgers and Wilson have faced off six times in the regular season — going 3-3 — and two times in the playoffs, each winning once. Wilson is 0-4 at Lambeau, with all four wins coming in Seattle.
A ninth game rubber match, which at times in the past few weeks seemed unlikely, now seems a possibility.