The Seahawks’ confidence in the imminent return of Russell Wilson for next Sunday’s road game against the Jets is based on more esoteric matters. Namely, their firm belief in the notion that Wilson simply won’t allow himself to NOT be ready, whatever that entails.
The Seahawks’ prevailing mindset is that Russell Wilson will be fine, any evidence of writhing, limping or other manifestations of discomfort notwithstanding.
That’s not so much a medical opinion, which will come after Wilson undergoes an MRI exam and other tests for the sprained left knee that sent a collective gasp through their fan base — and bench — when he went down Sunday in the third quarter of Seattle’s 37-18 victory.
“My heart dropped,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I haven’t felt like that for a long time, my heart dropping into my chest like that.”
No, the Seahawks’ confidence in the imminent return of Wilson for next Sunday’s road game against the Jets is based on more esoteric matters. Namely, their firm belief in the notion that Wilson simply won’t allow himself to NOT be ready, whatever that entails.
“He’s half crazy about this stuff,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s going to just will it to happen. We’ll see how it goes. Most likely, he’s going to be fine. Just because that’s how he operates.”
The Seahawks had best not keep testing that faith, however. This season, Wilson has already overcome an ankle injury that initially looked severe, but didn’t cause him to miss a single snap, against all odds.
Now he’s vowing that this latest setback won’t stop him, though it did do something that had never before happened in his NFL career; indeed, not since he was forced out of the PapaJohn’s Bowl by a torn posterior cruciate ligament while playing for North Carolina State in January of 2009.
Wilson actually missed snaps Sunday, a professional first for anything other than a blowout that allowed Carroll to clear the bench. And it killed him. Initially, Wilson was out for just one play, at which time he ran back out onto the field to replace backup Trevone Boykin. Not that Wilson necessarily cleared it with anyone, he just ran out there.
“I told them; maybe they didn’t hear me,” he said coyly.
But after finishing that possession, discretion trumped valor, and Wilson gave way to Boykin for the remainder of the game — in which he had played brilliantly to that point, by the way.
The decision to hold him out — which required taking his helmet away — didn’t sit well with Wilson, of course. He pleaded with Carroll until the very end to let him back in. But he would have had to fight Baldwin if he had tried to sneak back onto the field. The wide receiver had pleaded with Carroll to not let Wilson be a hero in a game they had comfortably in hand.
“I just told Pete, ‘Pull him out,’ ” Baldwin explained. “Russ wanted to stay in. Obviously, as a football player and competitor, you want to be out there and compete with your teammates, but at that point, I was real adamant about getting him out of the game.”
Wilson has always been the Man Who Would Not Go Down, seemingly impervious to the sorts of mayhem that regularly strikes down quarterbacks around the NFL.
But this season, a mere three games old, Wilson has been shown to be frighteningly mortal, as well as reassuringly resilient. He was already ginger from the sprained right ankle — the big Week 1 scare — when 49ers linebacker Eli Harold threw down a stiff-arming Wilson with a horse-collar tackle for which he was flagged.
Wilson didn’t get up, not right away, which caused the Seahawks’ season to flash before one’s eyes. Wilson himself didn’t quite know what to think, until he took inventory and determined that it wasn’t as severe as it might have looked. Or even that he might have initially thought.
“I mean, I am fortunate,” he said. “I’ll do some tests and check all that stuff out, but I’m walking fine and all that, moving well, and I have good mobility … I’ll take an MRI. But I’ll be good to go.”
Yet it’s sobering to think that a banged-up Wilson might be the new normal for the Seahawks, at least for the near future. Seattle’s bye in two weeks, which some felt might come too early to be optimally beneficial, now looks like a godsend.
But with so much of the Seahawks’ offense predicated on Wilson’s mobility, the Seahawks have to figure out a way to get him healthy, and, more important, to keep him that way. Teammate Michael Bennett has one gentle suggestion.
“I told him, ‘Throw the ball away.’ Sometimes you have to throw it away,” Bennett said.
The injuries are ominous. But the encouraging thing is that Wilson is playing at a cerebral level unmatched during his already highly successful tenure in Seattle. Baldwin pointed to his 34-yard reception on the game’s second play that propelled Seattle to an early score that jump-started the rout.
He said Wilson changed the play at the line of scrimmage, just as he had done on his game-winning touchdown pass to Baldwin in the season opener.
“As Russell matures with this offense and as he evolves with this offense, he’s changing everything now,” Baldwin said.
“It was going to be a big play, but I saw something bigger and better,” Wilson explained.
The optimal situation would be for Wilson’s mental prowess to be matched by his physical peak, and the Seahawks might yet reap that combination this season. But they are going to have to nurse Wilson through another injury before that happens.
One thing seems certain: It’s not going to happen by Wilson sitting out and letting himself heal. At least, that would happen over his sore body. Wilson is going to fight to play, just as he did on Sunday.
“It’s a tribute to the person that he is and the resolve he has and his passion to be out there for his teammates,” Baldwin said. “It’s ridiculous, and sometimes, we have to hold him back from himself.”