RENTON — If the Seahawks’ pursuit of controversial receiver Antonio Brown might strike some as odd, one reason for their interest is that the biggest advocate for the team possibly adding him is Seattle’s most important player and most visible face — quarterback Russell Wilson.
That, too, might strike some as odd given Wilson’s spotless reputation, as some wonder if advocating for the team to add Brown runs counter to Wilson’s many public off-field stances.
In his most extensive comments about Brown during his regular Thursday Zoom call with media, Wilson recounted getting to know Brown and why he thinks the Seahawks could be a good fit for him, while stressing several times that he doesn’t know if Seattle will actually sign him.
Brown is eligible to return to action in two weeks when his NFL suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy lapses.
Brown was suspended in the wake of several sexual-assault allegations and after pleading guilty to a felony battery charge, which capped a tumulutous two-year period in which he essentially forced himself out of Pittsburgh and Oakland, was released by New England after just one game and has been out of football since last September.
“The reality about Antonio’s is he’s one of the best players to ever play this game,’’ Wilson said. “I think that he’s always been a special player in terms of the field, I think. And you know the reality is, with Antonio he’s had some tough moments in his life, especially as of late, and I think he’s gone through a lot of things that he wishes he could take back and not do and not say. …
“I’ve developed a relationship personally with him, and you know not everybody’s perfect. I think that’s just the reality — none of us are — and so hopefully he gets to play football again.’’
Wilson said the two have known each other for “four or five years,’’ having talked at Pro Bowls and other events such as a commercial shoot for NBC in 2016, which has led to them working out together in southern California pretty much every summer since.
Wilson said he has had conversations with Brown of late about some of what has happened over the past few years and said he thinks Brown “definitely has taken those steps’’ to change and show remorse.
“From the conversations I’ve had with him he’s really been remorseful and he’s been humbled along the way,’’ Wilson said. “I pray that he can continue to grow, just like anybody. … I’m not into that in terms of knowing (the specifics of some of the events) — I wasn’t there in that process. But knowing what I know, of him and the times I’ve been around him, I try not to judge people, and I think that along the way, I think it’s important that no matter what, no matter if he plays football ever again or not, I think it’s important that he’s surrounded by the right people.’’
And Wilson said he thinks the Seahawks could serve as some of those right people for which to surround Brown.
“Most of the conversation I’ve had with most of his former teammates and stuff like that said that he worked hard every day, he came ready,’’ Wilson said. “And I think he had a bad year or two there a couple years there where it kind of didn’t go the way he wanted it to. I think that with coach (Pete) Carroll, I think with the teammates that we have, the men that we have and the growth, I think if he does play football I think this is a great place. If he does play again I think this is a place that he’ll grow a lot as a man, too, as well. And I think that we’re going to continue to try to help anybody who walks in this locker room. As you guys know we’ve had other great players here and I think that’s just part of our culture is trying to help people and be along that way and so I think it’s not just about the games, it’s not just about winning and stuff like that, it’s also about developing and talking and growing as men and just learning from our previous experiences and everything else, too, as well.’’
There’s also the question of whether the Seahawks really need Brown.
He has been an undeniably great player in his career, as four All-Pro selections from 2014-17 attest. But he’s now 32, has played just one game since the end of the 2018 season, practiced sparingly in that time — and has not been with a team since September 2019.
The Seahawks already feature one of the best passing games in the NFL with Wilson boasting 19 touchdown passes through five games.
But Wilson said that any team can always get better, noting that the Chiefs just added Le’Veon Bell, saying at one point that “this is professional sports.’’
“I think that you’re always trying to look to see how can we get better,’’ Wilson said. “How can we get better in every way — there’s more touchdowns, there’s more things that can we do.’’
Will the Seahawks really add Brown?
Wilson made clear that he doesn’t know — or at least doesn’t want to be the one to tip anything off.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him,’’ Wilson said. “I don’t know how serious it is.’’
But his comments, coupled with those of Carroll, made it clear the Seahawks are interested, with Wilson seemingly willing to take some responsibility for trying to make sure it would work.
“Hopefully he gets a second chance,’’ Wilson said.