Ah, the much-needed bye. Russell Wilson can finally kick back.
Time for the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback to get off his battered legs and rest his sprained knee and ankle while the rest of the league plays on this Sunday. Relax and recuperate, so he can perhaps get past his leg injuries and play through the final 12 regular-season games — starting with Atlanta on Oct. 16.
Russell Wilson doesn’t do doing nothing.
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We’re going to see him go grunge and rip teammates in press conferences before we see him idled and chilling during the regular season. Or any season.
This is his only off week from the end of the July until least January. So what?
“I have two full weeks,” he said of this time between games for Seattle (3-1). “That’s too long!”
The 27-year-old says he can’t stand to not be busy. Just like the last month, he’s been in the training room ramping up his rehabilitation with ankle- and knee-strengthening exercises and flexion tests. In the hours he’s not been there, he’s been working off-site with Drew Morcos, the personal physical therapist he flew up from California. He’s been getting reviving sessions with his massage therapist.
He’s been getting awakened by his staff in the middle of the night to continue the therapy and keep the swelling from increasing.
“He even gets treatment during meetings,” teammate and linebacker Bobby Wagner marveled.
Asked if Wilson was staying off his legs this past week, Pete Carroll almost scoffed.
“No. Not at all. He’s going the other way,” the Seahawks coach said. “He’s working the other way. He’s gaining strength and flexibility and making sure he’s maintaining all the range of motions and stuff like that. He’s very aggressively going after it. He’s not sitting down at all.”
That’s how Wilson has made 78 consecutive starts to begin his career, how he’s yet to miss a practice let alone a start since he became Seattle’s starter from the first game of his 2012 rookie season.
Last month was the first time he was on a practice participation report for any injury — on a day in which he was a full participant in workouts. Of course.
“I’ve always had a kind of high paint tolerance,” he said.
“I think ultimately it’s in your mind.”
Wilson has kept playing through the sprained right ankle he got in the third quarter of Seattle’s opening win over Miami, when Ndamukong Suh stepped on it. Heavy tape was applied, and he returned without missing a play to lead that come-from-behind win over the Dolphins with a touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin in the final minute.
It’s believed to be a high-ankle sprain, a trickier injury higher up the leg that often takes weeks — if not a month — from which to recover. Teammate Germain Ifedi missed from Sept. 9 to the first of October with that injury, until the rookie’s regular-season debut last week. Tons of ice, therapy and tape later, Wilson didn’t miss a practice and played the following week. But he was greatly limited — as was Seattle’s offense in a 9-3 loss at Los Angeles Sept. 18. It was the fewest points for the Seahawks in five years.
One week later he sprained the left knee during the blowout of San Francisco.
Last weekend he had one of the most heroic days of his career. Playing with a bulky brace over his left knee and with no healthy legs left, he stayed in the pocket instead of moving and completed 23 of 32 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. The Seahawks rolled past the New York Jets.
His big day leaves him with 1,064 yards passing through four games. That’s 159 more than he had at this point last season — when he went on to become the first Seahawk to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
“He came out great. He’s thrilled about the way he got out of that thing,” Carroll said of last weekend’s game. “He got hit a couple times but nothing on the knees or ankles that bothered him. He’s already deep into the process of this week and we’re anticipating that he’s going to be in pretty good shape two weeks from now.”
That has his coach feeling might fortunate.
“He’s only had one half where he didn’t have something wrong this season,” Carroll said. “I really don’t know how to say enough about his mentality. He has a perfect mentality to endure whatever he needs to endure and he does it on the strength of his belief in himself, commitment to his teammates and just this marvelous will.
“It’s not because he doesn’t work, because he’s worked for almost a month straight of rehabbing and continuing to work to get right, always believing he’s going to get well and be well. It’s been a marvelous spirit to watch. It’s been a thrill.”
A different kind of one from Wilson so far.
The sprained knee and ankle have all but eliminated scrambling and running from his game. Two plays from the first four games exemplified that.
Two weeks ago the sprained ankle left Wilson unable to scramble outside San Francisco Eli Harold, as he normally does with pass-rushing linebackers. Harold pulled him down from behind, all of Wilson’s body weight falling on his left knee. He sprained the medial collateral ligament and missed one play, then the final 21 minutes of the Seahawks’ win. Those are the only plays he’s missed due to injury in his five-year career.
Last weekend at the Jets, Wilson kept the ball on the read-option play that’s been a staple of Seattle’s running game since he became their starter. But with the bad knee and ankle, Wilson didn’t run around New York’s Sheldon Richardson. He simply crumpled to the turf in submission at Richardson’s feet.
Maybe time to shelve that play until, oh, about November.
Wilson has run 15 times for just 28 yards (1.9 yards per rush). Last season after four games he’d run 27 times for 158 yards (5.9 yards a carry).
His types of runs have also changed.
Last regular season, Wilson scrambled 56 times (an average of 3.5 times per game) for 401 of his 553 yards rushing. He averaged 7.2 yards per scramble. He gained 19 first downs on scrambles off pass calls.
So far this season on the bad legs he has scrambled just six times (1.5 times per game) for 31 yards. He has averaged 5.2 yards per scramble. He has yet to gain a first down by turning pass calls into improvised runs.
“I like being on the move,” Wilson deadpanned. “You have 350-pound guys who can run 4.4 out there.
“I’d rather be able to move just a little bit faster.”
Will he be able to coming off this bye week (not a week of rest for Wilson, thank you)?
Now that the ankle is better, how much better will the sprained MCL be by the Falcons game next weekend, after Wilson and the team return to practice Wednesday?
Will he be the full Wilson, once more scrambling and running away from pass rushers and extending plays for improbable, improvisational feats?
“I’m hoping. We’ll see,” Carroll said.
“We’re hoping that he’s going to be back. I can’t imagine him being much better. He’s just going to work at it so hard. He’s so close. His movement and footwork and stuff looked normal in the game. It was better than last week as well. But better than a couple weeks ago.
“We should have a real strong QB playing when we get back in a couple weeks from now.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle