Now that he has his NFL-record contract extension, what kind of pressure to perform and lead does $140 million bring to Russell Wilson?
“I always say, pressure is when my dad was on his death bed,” Wilson said.
Harrison Wilson III died June 9, 2010, at age 55 after a battle with cancer and complications from diabetes.
“This is a game I get to play,” his son said Wednesday. “I get to throw a football for a living. I get to do what I love to do.”
Wilson often refers to his father, who once had a preseason in 1980 playing with the San Diego Chargers then went on to become a lawyer and raised his family during Russell’s formative years in Richmond, Va.
His appreciation for his dad 10 Father’s Days since his death is one of Wilson’s enduring motivators. And a main source of perspective.
Last Thanksgiving, he was in the middle of the 2018 season in which he set career records for passing touchdowns and passer rating despite throwing the ball fewer times than any NFL full-time starter because of Seattle’s league-best rushing offense. The quarterback was asked what he’s thankful for.
“Something that we always take for granted is breath,” he said. “I think back to when my dad was on his death bed. He had a breathing mask on his face. Those are tough times, you know?
“I think back to breath. There are some people in the hospital right now that don’t have breath, really, and have something breathing for them. So I’m grateful that I get to breathe, and get to experience life every day. And just have some amazing people around me.”
That four-year deal he struck April 16 with the Seahawks with $140 million in new money, a $65 million signing bonus and $70 million guaranteed to be paid within 12 months of signing? The $35 million per year that makes Wilson’s the richest contract in NFL history, as he had sought and his team had planned for years?
Wilson says that’s not pressure. Not how some may think it will be heaped upon him this season -- and through 2023, when his contract ends and he will be 35 years old.
“No, not at all,” the eighth-year veteran, Super Bowl champion and winningest quarterback in the first seven years of an NFL season said. “I think I always put enough positive pressure on myself. You look forward to the moments. You look forward to the challenges. You look forward to the opportunity. You look forward to greatness. You look forward to having success. It doesn’t waver my mindset, from my first year to this year.
“It doesn’t change anything.”
So what has changed as he finishes his eighth offseason with the Seahawks Thursday with the end of the team’s three-day minicamp? What will be different for Wilson when he and teammates report to training camp July 24?
First, and most fundamentally, the bond Wilson has with his play caller is so much tighter now than it was 12 months ago. Last year at this time, Brian Schottenheimer was couple months into being Seattle’s new offensive coordinator emphasizing intricate fundamentals with Wilson. It was a learning experience for both player and coach.
“It translates in a big, big way, because there’s not that... we spent a lot of extra time together, but (now) we already share the same ideas as we come into the office versus this time last year: ‘OK, what are you thinking here? What are you thinking here?’
“As soon as we watch that film after practice we kind of discuss what we are seeing, what we can do better... it’s a great thing. He’s doing a tremendous job for us.”
Schottenheimer has talked this spring about going deeper with Wilson on offensive philosophy and understanding the whys behind the plays he gives Wilson to call.
But, no, sorry (the many who think $140 million means Seattle should have Wilson throw the ball all over the yard every Sunday): that deeper dive doesn’t mean more throwing from the Seahawks’ newly minted quarterback.
Just better throwing.
“Well obviously that’s always the objective, right?” Schottenheimer said of going deeper with Wilson. “We want to run the football, be physical. I think we’re the best play-pass team in the league, I really do. Russ’s ability to throw the ball deep down the field, that was evident last year. The last eight games, we were, I think, top three or four. He’s just got a great feel for it.”
Which leads us to what else has changed for Wilson for 2019: He has more, bigger and faster receivers to which to throw the ball down the field more often and more effectively than he already has been with (now-retired) Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.
Seattle drafted three wide receivers this spring, its most in 38 years.
And Wilson is already raving about the first one, three months before he plays his first NFL game.
Second-round choice DK Metcalf is a freakish 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, 229 pounds with 4.33-second speed in the 40-yard dash. After a wowing spring in which he showed more savvy technique in route-running and releases off the line than the Seahawks thought he had in college at Mississippi, Metcalf is already on a track to compete with David Moore to start as the “X” receiver on the line opposite the tight end in most formations.
The Seahawks have been moving Moore around this spring; he’s worked at split end, flanker and slot. That’s for the possibility (eventuality?) Metcalf takes Moore’s previous “X” receiver spot this year.
On the final play of the opening series the starting offensive had in a red-zone scrimmage Wednesday, Metcalf showed his rapid learning. He ran from left to right across the back line of the end zone as Wilson rolled right. Rather than continue his route into free safety Tedric Thompson, Metcalf ran away from him. Wilson anticipated that. The quarterback fired a on-the-same-wavelength strike onto the rookie’s big hands for the touchdown.
About an hour after that, Wilson didn’t exactly dampen the hype about Metcalf across the Pacific Northwest.
He added to it.
“I think DK is looking really, really special,” Wilson said. “He can do anything and everything. He’s tremendous.”
Fourth-round pick Gary Jennings was once a teammate with Wilson’s sister on a youth basketball team coached by Wilson in Virginia. Wilson says he remembers how inquisitive Jennings was as a kid. The quarterback also said the rookie has been sitting in the front row of offensive meetings asking questions in OTAs and minicamp.
Jennings made his Seahawks debut in practices this week after he missed a month with hamstring issues. Seattle drafted him to potentially be a big slot receiver creating mismatch problems for smaller defensive backs, and as another fast, deep threat outside.
Seventh-round choice John Ursua could be another option behind Lockett to replace Baldwin as the slot receiver. That’s the job the 25-year-old rookie had at the University of Hawaii last season when he lead major-college football with 16 touchdown receptions.
“You obviously got guys like Tyler who can stretch the field,” Scottenheimer said, “and then you add a size element like DK.
“David Moore coming back, he’s so much more comfortable right now. Last year he was kind of a one-position kind of guy. Now we’re moving him all over the place. It’s been cool to see those guys just take the next step.”
Wilson said the new wide receivers and first practices of the post-Baldwin era in Seattle has exceeded his expectations. Far exceeded them.
“To be honest with you, I’m kind of--not in a negative way--I’m kind of shocked at how good we’ve been as far as the young guys coming in, the new receivers,” Wilson said, “how everything’s clicked in such a smooth way.
“It feels like I’ve been doing it for years with these guys.”