RENTON Last game, for the first time since he hurt his knee four months ago, the brace was off.
Now Russell Wilson’s mind sounds free.
Saturday, the Falcons and the rest of us will find out what that means on the field.
“It felt great,” the Seahawks’ quarterback said Wednesday, three days before he and Seattle plays at Atlanta in the NFC divisional playoffs. “Like I’ve been saying to you guys, I’ve basically practiced for the last five, six weeks without it. My legs have been feeling really good. I just wanted to be smart and get to the playoffs -- and the chance to hopefully go win it all.
“My legs felt great. My legs feel good right now. Feel fast, and all that.”
On Sept. 25 San Francisco’s Eli Harold ran down Wilson during a scramble and pulled him down onto his left knee, spraining the quarterback’s medial collateral ligament. Doctors told Wilson he should miss four weeks to rest and heal. He didn’t miss a practice, let alone a game.
Saturday’s divisional playoff game at Atlanta will be Wilson’s 92nd consecutive start to begin his career, including postseasons and two Super Bowls.
In the first few games after he sprained his knee, Wilson wore a bulky, almost lineman-like brace on it. He looked and played severely limited, and the Seahawks’ playbook shrank with his reduced mobility.
Eventually, Wilson switched to a smaller, lighter, titanium brace. He played the final two months of the regular season wearing that, as a precaution more than anything, he said.
“When I cycle over it, I really can’t get my full range of motion,” Wilson said Wednesday of the brace. “It was a pretty light brace, but at the same time it impedes your full range of motion so it kind of impedes your stride a little bit.
“But it’s nice to have it off.”
Last weekend against Detroit Thomas Rawls and the base running game was rolling so well, the Seahawks didn’t call planned runs for Wilson. The quarterback rushed officially three times for minus-3 yards while also getting sacked three times.
Rawls plowed behind fullback Marcel Reece in more I-formation runs last Saturday night against the Lions than he had in all previous games this season combined. Rawls broke Marshawn Lynch’s Seahawks playoff record with 161 yards rushing, and Seattle ran for 177 overall.
Now C.J. Prosise is back practicing this week for the first time since he broke his shoulder blade Nov. 20 against Philadelphia. Whether the dynamic rookie plays against the Falcons or not is still to be determined, but signs are pointing to yes. With Wilson brace-free, Reece’s emergence as a key and Prosise’s return, Saturday in Atlanta apparently will be the most loaded the Seahawks’ backfield and running game has been this season.
Certainly far more than the last time the Seahawks played the Falcons. Seattle had just 72 yards on 27 carries on Oct. 16 at CenturyLink Field while winning 26-24.
The running game and controlling the clock and field position is key for Seattle on Saturday, to keep Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s highest-scoring offense off the field.
“It’s great. Obviously, our running game has gotten even better. The O-line is doing a great job and having Rawls back at full strength,” Wilson said. “Who knows what’s going to happen with C.J. Prosise? Then Marcel, and all the other running backs we have. J.D. [McKissic] has done a great job. Alex Collins has done a great job. There’s multiple guys.
“To have that stable of running backs is crucial, especially this time of year, to run physical and to run fast and make plays. It’s a good thing for us.”