Russell Wilson doesn’t just admire his friend Drew Brees.
Wilson believes he may not even be in the NFL — let alone be the Seahawks’ $140 million franchise quarterback and Super Bowl champion — if not for the injured New Orleans Saints’ icon 10 years his senior.
“Drew, he’s probably my favorite player to ever play the game,” the 5-foot-11 Wilson said Thursday, three days before his Seahawks (2-0) host the Saints (1-1) without the 6-foot Brees playing for New Orleans.
Brees had thumb surgery this week.
“I think about his legacy, what he’s meant to the game,” Wilson said. “He’s allowed me to ... he’s helped me to kind of help open up the door for me to play, as a shorter quarterback. There’s been some guys before him that I’m sure he’d acknowledge, as well, the Doug Fluties of the world, and other, Steve Youngs. ...
“I think about Drew and his ability to make plays. When he’s in the game, just a spectacular football player. One of the best to ever step on the field. I have a lot of respect for him, as I said, and for his family. Obviously, going to miss seeing him play.”
No doubt, the Seahawks’ task Sunday against the Saints became tons easier last weekend when, just as Seattle was boarding its team plane home from winning at Pittsburgh, one of the best quarterbacks ever got hurt. Brees banged his throwing hand into Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald during the Saints’ 27-9 loss at Los Angeles on Sunday.
He had surgery this week to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. The 12-time Pro Bowl passer with a Super Bowl ring is reportedly going to miss at least six weeks.
Brees, 40, holds NFL records for career pass completions, career completion percentage, career yards passing, career touchdown passes and most consecutive games with a TD throw.
So, yeah, the Seahawks’ chances to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2013, their and Wilson’s Super Bowl-championship season, went up dramatically when Brees went down.
“He’s an amazing player,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “The consistency, the accuracy, the decision making, the efficiency and even a great third-down team. His third-down-and-7 or less numbers are ridiculous over the years.
“He’s as good as anybody who’s ever played the game. Everything about his command of playing the position is as good as it can get. So, he’s a phenomenal player.”
There will be no fourth career game of Wilson versus Brees, seeker versus advisor, on Sunday. Wilson has beaten Brees twice in the previous three meetings. Both were in Seattle, during the 2013 season. One was in December. The second was in the playoffs the following month. During the 2016 regular season, Brees beat Wilson and the Seahawks 25-20 in New Orleans.
This time, the Seahawks are preparing for Teddy Bridgewater, the former Vikings quarterback who lost his two career starts against Seattle during the 2015 regular season and then playoffs, as the starter in Seattle.
Taysom Hill is also an option, perhaps for a package of plays. New Orleans coach Sean Payton has used Hill far more as a runner and receiver than as a quarterback in Hill’s three seasons with the Saints. The former quarterback at BYU has seven career passes.
“I would think that Teddy goes, just by the structure that they’ve been in,” Carroll said.
Wednesday, while on a conference call with Seattle media following the Saints’ practice at the University of Washington, Payton played the usual gamesmanship of an NFL coach. He was less than revealing on who will start Sunday.
“We’ve got two guys that we’re comfortable with, have played and experience in our system,” Payton said. “Both guys are getting work during the week here, and we’ll just see how it plays out on Sunday.”
Asked why he doesn’t just do what seems to be the obvious and name Bridgewater, Payton said: “It may be. What’s more obvious is me not answering that question at a Wednesday press conference with media calling.”
Whoever starts for the Saints, Wilson is going to be disappointed it’s not Brees.
“My first Pro Bowl (for the 2012 season), that was my first real experience being around him, my rookie year,” Wilson said. “I remember Eli Manning, it was myself, Drew Brees. Ben Roethlisberger was on the other side. ... Peyton Manning was on the other side. To be able to talk to those guys and gain knowledge and learn as much as I could was a big thing. I talked to Drew.
“I’ve watched a lot of film of him. I’ve studied his game, gotten to know him over the years. We’ve gotten close, and everything else. I’ve asked him for a lot of advice, just about life, about kids and schools and this and that, and, obviously the game, too.”
Wilson, 30, has two children, a son and a daughter both under the age of 5. Brees has three sons (ages 10, 8 and 7) and a 5-year-old daughter.
The families’ kids are pals, too.
“We get to see each other in the offseason some,” Wilson said. “Our kids are close and stuff like that, so they get to play together sometimes. It’s cool. We’ve kept up the relationship over the years.
“He’s arguably the best to ever do it.”