Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Russell Wilson ‘throwing shade’? Just being thoughtful on NFL hitting rules

Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, last week, and rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for the Seahawks.
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Quarterback Russell Wilson talks about not playing, for a change, last week, and rookie WR Gary Jennings’ best day yet for the Seahawks.

People in Denver saw it as Russell Wilson “throwing shade,” as the kids say, at the Broncos’ rookie quarterback. Some even in Seattle saw that way, too.

But what the Seahawks’ franchise quarterback had to say as an aside about Denver’s Drew Lock was far more than that. It was part of a wider, thoughtful reaction Wilson has for the NFL taking hitting with the head out of football.

Many believe this emphasis is the league getting soft.

“I think if the rules are getting soft, I think it’s more so of just trying to be smart in how we are hitting guys. One, for the guy who’s getting hit, but, two, for the guy who’s actually doing the hitting, obviously,” Wilson said after the 13th practice of training camp Monday.

“The reality is, there has been some guys with brain issues and so on and neck problems and all that kind of stuff. Those are real, real things.

“I would agree with some of the thought.”

Wilson then used as an example the shoulder hit Seahawks rookie safety Marquise Blair put on Denver wide receiver Nick Williams down the middle of the field as Lock’s throw was arriving into what Wilson saw as a dangerously tight window during Seattle’s preseason opener Thursday night.

“I’ll use the hit the other day that Blair (made),” Wilson said. “The guy’s running a seam route. He makes a great play. He smokes him. He hits him, in my opinion, pretty clean. I think to the naked eye, it seems too physical.

“At the same time, the reality is the ball probably shouldn’t go there ...”

There’s the “shade.”

“I think that’s just the reality,” Wilson said, flatly.

“I think that’s just part of the game. That’s what we grew up playing. I think as long as guys aren’t being malicious and trying to hurt guys’ knees and trying to hit with the crown of the head — there are some of those now — that’s why I think that’s the unfortunate part. There are some of those hits there. There are some people who are trying to do that. It’s trying to find the balance of it.

“Like I said to you guys before, I’ve always played this game because of the physical nature of it. I love this game because of it. That’s just something part of the game that I think that we do, as players want to be smart and it’s just knowing the balance of it and knowing how to hit the right way.”

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell details Seahawks’ preseason-opening win, rookie Marquise Blair’s aggressive, impressive debut Thursday night’s at safety against Denver.

Since that hit, Blair has been back at practices working more on a long-standing project of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: taking the head out of the game, leading with his shoulder.

The correct shoulder.

Carroll made the point after the Denver game that although Blair did not hit the receiver with his head, the rookie used the wrong shoulder to deliver the blow. Blair’s head crossed Williams’ chest. To the officials who threw multiple penalty flags, that made it look more like Blair’s helmet was first contacting the receiver.

“The league did take a look at the hit and they ruled that it wasn’t the kind that would get him kicked out of the game or whatever,” Carroll said, referring to a game stoppage and replay review to check if Blair should have been ejected.

“We were very close to doing that exactly right. ... That’s a left shoulder hit for him coming in (from right to left), and he chose to hit with his right shoulder (the shoulder further from the receiver), and so it places his helmet in position in question. And the officials thought, ‘Well, when we look at it again...’

“But that was a right-shoulder hit, and that’s pretty darn good football.”

Carroll’s point to Blair is: Hit with the left shoulder, nearer to the receiver as Blair runs to him from right to left. Had he done that, Blair’s head would not have crossed in front of Williams’ body.

“But to make it so that they can’t the penalty on it, you hit with your left shoulder so your helmet is not in front of the receiver,” Carroll said. “We didn’t quite get that done right, but it still was an excellent effort to do what we’re trying and get the head out of our game.

“So, we’ll get better and he’ll learn, and we’ll grow from that.”

So, yes, there’s more to it than Wilson “throwing shade” at an opposing, rookie quarterback.

Coach Pete Carroll assesses the Seahawks’ preseason opener, a win over Denver without Russell Wilson.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.