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John Blanchette: Tired of taking hits, Russell Wilson delivers a few in quest for more say

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 9, 2021

By John Blanchette For The Spokesman-Review

You know those times when Russell Wilson holds on to the ball too long?

Well, he just did it again.

Now, this time it’s not going cost the Seattle Seahawks a sack and push them out of field-goal range. Maybe he even extends the play and connects on one of those cliff’s-edge improvisations, in the fashion that’s made him one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks – at least up until it’s time to cast MVP ballots and his worth gets more than on-deadline scrutiny.

Maybe this turns out to be Wilson’s best moment.

Even if it feels like a Hail Mary, after some dubious clock management.

The Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback has been flexing his muscle over the past couple of days – first with his “people” working the back channels to stir up reports of other teams inquiring about Wilson’s availability in a trade, and then with as much frankness as he can manage with his nice-guy public face.

In two national appearances Tuesday, Wilson decided to go deep on his state of mind, which hasn’t improved since the Seahawks bumbled and bounced themselves from the first round of the playoffs.

Boiled down, Wilson wants more say – and most of all, he wants less heat.

“I’ve been sacked almost 400 times,” the nine-year veteran said, “so we’ve got to get better. I’ve got to find ways to get better, too.

“I’m frustrated (about) getting hit too much.”

You’re frustrated, too, Russ? Where have you been, man?

OK, quarterbacks don’t cement loyalty by calling out the guys up front in the press. Bark a little in the huddle or on the sideline for motivational purposes when called for, but it’s probably not reasonable to expect that kind of candor in front of media scavengers who live on easy meat. Besides, Wilson’s always the most comfortable wearing those good soldier fatigues.

But even the best of soldiers have to have a sense of self-preservation.

In his second year as a pro – with the Seahawks en route to a Super Bowl championship – Wilson’s sack total jumped from 33 to 44, and stayed in the 40s until 2018 when it took another jump to 51. His 394 career sacks are the most in the NFL in that period, and the most in a quarterback’s first nine seasons – by nearly 30 – since 1970.

All this time, Wilson was making Pro Bowls and becoming the face of the franchise. Indeed, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider embarked on a course of shedding, one by one, the flinty characters who carried Seattle to its championship and going all-in on Wilson and a kinder, gentler locker room.

In 2019, he signed a contract extension worth $140 million over four years, richest in the league at that moment.

So how about exercising that clout before now, Russ?

The frustration of the Seahawks is that after 2013, their relative youth and talent level made them a budding dynasty. Then the wrong play got called on the goal line in the next Super Bowl, and the slow roster turnover began – and while they’ve made the playoffs every year but one, they’ve managed to make that a disappointment.

But now Wilson will be 33 before the end of the next season. That’s hardly ancient for top-tier NFL quarterbacks (please consult with the firm of Brady, Rodgers and Brees), but with so much of his magic based on elusiveness and being a threat to run, it seems as if his shelf life could be shorter. And – given all those hits – he’s an old 32.

As for his input, Wilson doesn’t want to be in the war room on draft day – though he could hardly do worse in picking offensive linemen than Schneider and Carroll have (Germain Ifedi, white courtesy phone, please). But he wants more say in how things are done on offense – and this will likely be even trickier than upgrading the line.

“If you ask guys like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and even Tom (Brady) – I think you saw this year how much he was involved in the process,” Wilson said. “That’s something that is important to me.”

Problem is, Russ wants to cook – meaning more early down and downfield passing. That doesn’t really square with minimizing hits, or with Carroll’s preference for the roughage of run-first football. Now on board to referee is Wilson’s third offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron, and good luck to him – though surely he knows who’s the boss.

And the trade stuff? Not with $39 million in dead money the Seahawks would have to eat under the salary cap.

But check back in a year, if the hits just keep on coming.

Now that Wilson’s found his voice – at last – expect it to get louder.

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