SEATTLE – Russell Wilson is back.
That’s true in a literal sense, of course. He showed up this week for Organized Team Activities in Renton, one of several Seahawks veterans to do so despite early indications they would skip the nonmandatory portion of the offseason, en masse.
But more important, in light of his highly, shall we say, eventful offseason, is the fact that the Wilson who took the podium Thursday for his long-awaited interview session was vintage Mr. Unlimited. Or, if you prefer, DangerRuss. In fact, he even said, multiple times, that he felt “more dangerous than ever.”
That’s straight out of the classic Wilson playbook. So was his listing of nearly the entire roster, right down to the second stringers at each position, when detailing his high hopes for next season. So was his repeated declaration that a title is all that matters, and winning “heals all things.”
There’s always comfort to be had when an accomplished artist plays the hits. When Wilson ended the Zoom call with his patented, “Go Hawks!” exclamation, it was like Springsteen playing “Born to Run.” It would have felt wrong without it.
That’s not said cynically, either, or to imply that Wilson was pandering or playacting. His shtick might be saccharine, bordering on cloying, but it’s consistent. So consistent that you have to conclude it’s sincere.
In other words, by now we all know who Russell Wilson is – and more important, who he is not. And here’s who he’s not. He’s not someone who can sustain his discontent and use it as a bludgeon, like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, or demand a trade like Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson did before sexual-assault allegations against him put his status in limbo.
For better or worse, Wilson is bound by his image, which is to be a team-first player and community-first person who never rests in his pursuit of excellence on and off the field.
This offseason was the first time in his professional career that Wilson went astray of that perception. Not surprisingly, he spent the vast majority of his time Thursday explaining what happened.
Frankly, he still left some questions unanswered, and danced around a few others. Wilson stressed that he never asked for a trade, but he never fully explained why his agent still put forward publicly four teams to which he would agree to be traded.
But I think what people were looking for out of Wilson most of all, especially Seahawks fans, was not a blow-by-blow rehashing of the offseason, but rather a definitive signal of his commitment to the Seahawks. And that came through loud and clear.
Wilson said he wants to spend his entire career in Seattle. When I asked him how we can be sure this whole drama isn’t just being tabled for a year, only to erupt anew next offseason, he said, “I know any time in sports, obviously things can change. That’s just the reality. But for me, my heart of hearts, I love the city. I love this place. I love everything about it.”
He parried questions of his perceived criticism of Seahawks teammates, particularly the offensive line, by extolling them repeatedly. He admitted that the whole offseason episode required extensive talks with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to work through it, but the upshot was “it made our relationship stronger.”
Even those who roll their eyes at such pronouncements – those cynics I alluded to earlier are most definitely out there – should see it as a win-win for the Seahawks.
Even if you think Wilson is still seething under the surface, or the complaints he harbored have been only temporarily pushed to the side (and I saw no hint of that, by the way), his motivation is still the same: to show that he can rise above the fray – “compartmentalize,” in Wilson-speak – and get the Seahawks back to the top.
It may be the cheesiest of clichés, but Wilson is wired that way. He’s not wired toward being a troublemaker, a malcontent or a squeaky wheel. One of the most pointed questions Thursday was why Wilson didn’t clear the air publicly sooner if he thought his stance was being misconstrued. His answer was to portray the whole thing as “family matters” that needed to be worked through privately. I wonder if part of it is simply Wilson’s discomfort at being thrust in the middle of such a messy situation and having to go counter to his image.
Now he’s back in his comfort zone, however. Minicamp is next week, training camp about six weeks after that, and then Wilson’s 10th NFL season beckons. After all the drama, tension and fears of the offseason, Wilson had the final word Thursday. The syntax might have been fractured, but his message, when asked about his relationship with teammates, was the one that Seahawks fans will cling to.
“We couldn’t be more better than ever.”
Oh, yes – Russell Wilson is back.
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