Russell Wilson’s secrets to his seemingly innate durability? To his ability to withstand brutal hits? To start not just every game, but every practice?
Postgame swimming. Plus weight lifting and the advice of Leon Washington, Vinny Testaverde and Warren Moon.
Last weekend, the Rams hit Wilson a season-high 13 times. It was one of his more violent bludgeonings in the last couple of years. Wilson’s been hit 24 times in his last two games. He was sacked 31 times in the first seven games of this Seahawks season.
Yet Sunday’s game between Seattle (9-6) and the NFC West-champion Cardinals (13-2) at Arizona will be Wilson’s 64th consecutive career start in regular-season games. He’s also started all eight of Seattle’s playoff games during his career, despite often taking hits from which many quarterbacks do not get up, let alone continue playing week after week.
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No, this time it’s not Recovery Water. But it is about the water.
“I get up early in the morning, I swim. That’s one of the first things I do,” Wilson said Thursday before New Year’s Eve practice. “That helps a lot (to) get ready to go.
“Best thing to do is always be available. I think that obviously, to not miss practices, to be out there on game day, that’s what I’m here for. Ultimately: Whatever it takes. That’s kind of the mentality. Try to take care of your mind, body as much as possible throughout the week, get ready to go. I’m big on the mobility part of it, too.”
Yes, the most indispensable member of the Seahawks gets in the pool each Monday so he can practice all week and play again on Sunday. Wilson tries to do up to 30 laps in a pool on the day after games.
“I swim pretty good. I’m not a phenomenal swimmer or anything like that; I’m not Michael Phelps out there,” he said, chuckling. “But for me, I definitely swim laps. I’ll swim probably 30 if I can, if I have the opportunity to swim in a big enough pool. So that’s a big thing for me.
“I’m not going to tell you where I go swim.”
Could be inside his own house. In 2015, the 27-year-old Wilson bought a 10,700-square-foot mansion on Lake Washington, west of downtown Bellevue, for $6.7 million — though no real-estate listings say it has an indoor pool.
Wherever he does it, it works. Not only has Wilson never missed a game in his NFL career, he hasn’t been on an injury report — not for even a single practice day. The only time he’s missed any Seahawks practice came in May. He missed a voluntary minicamp. He chose instead to fly to Florida to attend the funeral of a beloved mother figure to new teammate Jimmy Graham.
Wilson hasn’t missed any game or practice time since the first game of his freshman year at North Carolina State. On Aug. 29, 2008, Wilson left his college debut strapped to a board. He was hospitalized with a grade-three concussion. He missed N.C. State’s next game, then returned to start his final 49 college games in a row for the Wolfpack and, in one, final season, for Wisconsin in 2011.
How vital have Wilson’s resiliency, preparation and preservation been to Seattle making the playoffs in all four of his seasons, to appearing in the last two Super Bowls and winning it all two seasons ago?
Consider whom other playoff teams will have starting at quarterback next week, because of injuries to their starters this season: A.J. McCarron (Cincinnati) and Brock Osweiler (Denver). Brandon Weeden, cut this season by Dallas, was AFC South-leading Houston’s starter until Wednesday, when Brian Hoyer was cleared to return. Hoyer’s had two concussions this season and five in his career.
“It’s tremendously valuable, and, yeah, you do get accustomed to it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson’s durability. “He’s out here today going, and you saw him get hit a little bit last week.
“I hate to think that we would take it for granted, but when he’s so steady and so consistent, and he also continues to demonstrate the conscience that’s necessary, even though he pushed the limits a little bit last week, to stay healthy and to stay right. … We’ve seen a lot of other young quarterbacks that haven’t been able to figure that out.
“We’re very fortunate to have him, and the way that he’s been able to maintain is pretty rare.”
After Seattle drafted Wilson in the third round in 2012 and made him its starter from game one, he noticed how indestructible a certain Seahawks running back and kick returner was.
“The guy that I really looked up to in terms of the durability factor was Leon Washington,” Wilson said of the veteran who played in 48 consecutive games to begin his career with the New York Jets, then 48 more in a row with Seattle from 2010-13. “He was here, kickoff returner, special, special player. A special guy. Loved everything about him. His work ethic, his professionalism every day.”
So where does a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 draft, who played the most demanding position in the NFL through 2007, come in?
In Wilson’s other day-after regimen: Heavy Monday weightlifting during the season.
“I’ll never forget, I was at IMG, training for the (2012 NFL scouting) combine, and Vinny Testaverde was there,” Wilson said. “He played in the league for 21 years … and I used to ask him what he used to do. He was a big believer in lifting and moving and making sure you ran after the game, and stuff like that. So a guy who played 21 years, I believe in that.”
Wilson also believes in what the Seahawks’ radio analyst, a former quarterback for the Washington Huskies, Edmonton Eskimos, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle — 17 NFL seasons through 2000 — has told him.
“Even guys like Warren Moon, talking to him, and asking him for knowledge, a Hall of Famer,” Wilson said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be around enough guys to kind of gain some knowledge and use that knowledge to help me, and steal some knowledge from guys like Leon Washington on taking care of my body and how to do it, and all that. I used to ask so many questions.
“So hopefully I can do that for somebody else someday.”
As for the hits Wilson took against St. Louis, and the ones he is likely to take Sunday from the swarming Cardinals, who blitz more than anyone?
“If I didn’t want to get hit,” Wilson said, “I’d play a different sport.”
Plus, Wilson views all those hits, even in home losses such as last week’s, which ended the Seahawks’ five-game winning streak, differently than most.
“The bad things, I never call them ‘bad,’ ” Wilson said.
“I call them ‘experience.’ ”
CHANCELLOR is BACK ON the FIELD
Strong safety Kam Chancellor, who has missed the last two games with a bruised pelvis, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday.
Carroll said his status for the Cardinals game may be a game-time decision.
Left tackle Russell Okung had returned from a strained calf to practice in a limited way Wednesday, but missed Thursday.
Defensive end Michael Bennett practiced on a limited basis the day after being off-site to get an injection in his troublesome toe.