RENTON Some players go home during their bye week. Others go to beaches or the tropics.
K.J. Wright went to Alaska.
"I went to Alaska. Yeah. Saw some orca whales,” the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl linebacker said upon his return to work Monday. “Went to a wildlife reservation. Had a good time.
"First time I ever saw orcas. Saw a big pod of them.”
Wright’s eyes sparkled while talking about the whales following Monday’s practice for Sunday’s game at the New York Giants.
Last week’s trip fulfilled a lifelong goal, since he was growing up in Olive Branch, Mississippi.
"Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a big history guy and a big geography guy," the 28-year-old Wright said. "I thought Alaska would be pretty cool. It’s always been my dream to go up there and check it out.
"Got enough money to go up there and make it happen. I’m going to back in the summer time, do some fishing.
Yes, he does have enough money to go up to Alaska, anytime he wants. Wright has gone from growing up in Olive Branch, just over the state line from Memphis, Tennessee, to playing at Mississippi State to Seattle’s mainstay, every-down linebacker on the weak side. Wright signed a four-year contract extension in December 2014 worth $27 million. He’s earning $5.8 million this season, the most of his career so far. He is due a non-guaranteed $7.2 million in 2018, the final year of his deal.
He’s been indispensable next to All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner; Wright’s and Wagner’s unique speed and versatility plus abilities to tackle in the open field make the Seahawks’ defense uniquely qualified to stop dynamic rushers and receivers—such as Rams star Todd Gurley. They throttled Gurley for the fourth time in four career meetings Oct. 8 in Seattle’s 16-10 win at Los Angeles.
Wright says at this point in his career the bye week has evolved from a health-maintenance standpoint. In August he went away from the team and area for a blood therapy to heal a sore knee called regenokine. It’s the same process basketball legend Kobe Bryant and even the Pope have used.
It must have worked. Wright has played every regular-season game fully, and the knee hasn’t been an issue. It’s as if he never left the team to get it treated.
"This year, I was healthy so I didn’t have to stay in town," he said. "Of course, you still want to stay on top of your maintenance. You still want to work out. You don’t want to come back and be out of shape."
Is Wright so dedicated to that thought he was jogging around the decks of his cruise ship in Alaska?
"Yeah, I did, actually," he said with a grin.
Then he shook his head from side to side.
"No, I didn’t," he said, smiling.
While Wright was getting back from Alaska, the rest of the NFC was coming back to the Seahawks. Green Bay (4-2) not only lost at Minnesota (4-2); the Packers lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone, perhaps for the rest of the season. Defending conference-champion Atlanta (3-2) blew a 17-point lead at home to lose for the second time this season to a team from the AFC East. Now the Falcons are third in the NFC South and play at the defending Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots this weekend. Decisive running back Ezekiel Elliott may or may not be suspended for six weeks for Dallas (2-3).
"It is wide open," Wright said. "Of course, we’ve got to still focus on ourselves (but) it sucks to see those guys go down, because you like to see the best guys on the field, to play. Unfortunately (Rodgers) is going to be out for a while.
"But we’ve got to handle our business. We’ve got tough opponents. We got the Falcons (Nov. 20 at home), the Cowboys (Dec. 24 in Texas) here in the NFC.
“We’ve just got to take care of our business—and get that first-round bye in the playoffs."
The only thing not perfect for Wright on his otherwise idyllic bye week was where it fell on the Seahawks’ schedule: after five games. That means this preparation that began Monday for Sunday’s game at the Giants begins a 11-game stretch over the next 11 weeks to the end of the regular season.
"Of course, you want the perfect (spot); you want it to be week seven or eight," he said. "But it is what it is. At least it wasn’t week four, like it was a couple years ago.
"We’ve just got to take advantage of it. We have a great opportunity in front of us. The Giants, a good team. We can’t sleep on them. You saw them (Sunday night, in their domination at heavily favored Denver, New York’s first victory this season).”
Wright and the Seahawks on Monday hosted 25 students from the Work Force Development Center at practice. Those 25 students receive tickets to an upcoming Seahawks game, snacks, and networking with current and former team stars, concession vouchers and a “Legion of Youth” sweatshirt presented by the Seahawks and Boeing.
The Work Force Development Center is a social enterprise nonprofit organization that works with 36 high schools in northern King, Snohomish and Island counties. It gives disabled and economically disadvantaged high school students opportunities in aerospace apprenticeship training. Upon graduation from high school, trainees get guidance in resume writing, job application and interview training, plus connections with corporate recruiters. The WFDC says that in the last two years the organization has had 90 percent of graduating trainees secure employment within three months of graduation.
"These kids, man, they do a tremendous job in our community. Great leaders," Wright said. "We just wanted to show them our appreciation for them.
"So we got them a ticket plus three, for them to come out to the Seahawks and Texans game (Oct. 29). They were ‘The Legion of Youth.’ They do a great job. Young leaders of the future. We are glad to have them."