From the start of the 2012 season when he joined the Seahawks, most of the games have incrementally added to Russell Wilson’s legacy.
The last three have added to his mythology.
Elite quarterbacks win games and lead their teams. But the mythic hero must overcome hazards and obstacles, beat long odds and painful challenges. These are the only ways we can discover the true depth of their inner resources.
The problem with Wilson is that he makes all those things look a little too easy, like playing with significant sprains to one ankle and the other knee against the New York Jets and coming away with a passer rating of 133.5.
And when that effort fuels a 27-17 win over the Jets, after last week’s thrashing of San Francisco, well, it starts to feel like I’m not writing game columns as much as Homeric odysseys.
Of course, none of this really has been easy for Wilson. I asked somebody who would tell the truth, somebody who has watched Wilson every step: Seahawks quarterback coach Carl Smith.
“He’s not the same as other people; he’s wired different,” Smith said of Wilson. “He wouldn’t allow himself to be hurt. He thinks more about his teammates and about the game than he does about himself.”
Smith said Wilson approached his injuries like everything else — attacking it.
“He kept telling me all week, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine,’ ” Smith said. “But he never got faster than a walk all week; he couldn’t run, he couldn’t jog.”
For Wilson, it’s not so much about the strength of his legs or the elasticity of his connective tissues, it’s about what goes on in his mind.
“It’s mental, sure,” Smith said. “He just has total belief.”
Wilson passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns, but Smith said he was going to give him some minuses when he grades the film. “He was supposed to get down (to avoid contact) a lot more than he did,” Smith said.
Asked after the game if he represented a miracle of modern medicine, Wilson echoed Smith’s contention that the knee bone isn’t always connected to the brain pan.
“A lot of it starts with mentality,” Wilson said. “How you’re going to approach a little bump in the road, what you say to yourself, your self-talk, and what you believe in, how you can overcome situations.”
These have been pretty significant situations. The first occurred in the season opener against Miami, when 305-pound Dolphin lineman Ndamukong Suh did a 4.5 Richter stomp on Wilson’s ankle.
It was classified a high-ankle sprain. These things are different for all players, sometimes taking six weeks to heal. But nobody, nobody, gets back to practice the following Wednesday and plays every snap the next week. Other than Wilson.
The challenges of Odysseus cranked up again last week, when Wilson was pulled down with an illegal horse-collar sack and sprained his medial collateral ligament. The fact that he was already slowed with the ankle sprain left him unable to sprint away from the Niners’ defender.
But, again, he was back out to practice last week.
“He’s a warrior, no question about it,” said tight end Luke Willson. “It motivates everybody, for him to battle through injuries, rehabbing all week and have these kinds of performances. That has everybody fired up to rally behind him.”
Some wondered if Wilson would take a rest to heal up this week as the Hawks have a bye next week and it would give him time to put his feet up.
Ha, that’s a good one. No way that was going to happen.
Coach Pete Carroll said Wilson has been “half-crazy” about his rehabbing.
Yeah, crazy like a Favre.
Wilson talks about playing one game at a time, but you know he dreams long-term. Soon after he hurt his ankle this season, he said he’d have to start learning how to playing a more stationary game — like he’ll need to when he’s 41.
That means he’s considering his career extending into the 2030 season — 14 more years. Interesting that Wilson has now started 77 straight regular-season NFL games. The record for quarterbacks is Brett Favre’s 297 games.
If Wilson needs 220 more to match that, it would take him into the 2030 season. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not.
One thing is clear, you can’t go after those kind of achievements if you’re going take a seat with a couple of sprains when you’re only 27.
As the man said, he’s not the same as other people; he’s wired different.