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Wilson not acting, or feeling, like a rookie
Russell Wilson already has slain some stereotypes. Like being too short to play, let alone win, in the NFL.
Here he is, halfway through his rookie season, with a 4-4 record as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback entering Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. And his completion percentage of .614, if continued, would rank third-highest in league history for a rookie QB behind Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins (.668 this season) and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers (.664 in 2004).
Wilson’s four victories also share the lead in this season’s rookie class with the Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill and the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck, putting them one up on RGIII (three) and two ahead of the Cleveland Browns’ Brandon Weeden.
Now, Wilson is mocking some of the league’s longer-standing myths. Like the one about rookies hitting a wall at this point of the season, when four preseason games and eight in the regular season have matched the length of a college campaign.
“I think people forget that I played college football and professional baseball all in one year, so this isn’t anything to me,” Wilson said Thursday. “I can go all day.
“It’s one of those things where mentally you have to be focused; you have to get in a routine.”
Wilson’s routine includes getting up at 5:40 each morning, so he can be among the first players – if not the first player – at the team’s headquarters to begin preparing for that day’s task, that week’s challenge. And that includes hitting the hot tub, the cold tub and stretching.
“That really kind of gets you alive and awake,” he said. “And more than anything, I think when you love the game you never get tired of it.”
Then there’s the whole notion of being a rookie.
“I don’t feel like that all,” Wilson said. “I get some jokes here and there, obviously, in the locker room and stuff. But mentally, I don’t feel like that at all. I think more than anything, I’m dedicated to this offense and dedicated to this football team.
“So I think everybody is equal. We’re just trying to win. That’s our focus all the time, is competing and playing at a high level.”
The Seahawks’ QB has caught the eye – and earned the respect – of Jared Allen, the Vikings’ 30-year-old defensive end who led the league with 22 sacks last season.
“The dude’s fast. He’s a playmaker,” Allen said Wednesday during a conference-call interview. “You’ve got to give the guy credit, he does some things in the pocket – he’s athletic enough in the pocket – to get himself free to throw the ball down the field. And he can still beat you with his feet. So that means he’s a double threat.
“Some rookie quarterbacks, you can look at them and say, ‘I don’t think they have a complete grasp of what’s going on in the offense.’ But he seems to be smart, knowing where his escape lanes are in the offensive line and knowing where to go with the ball after that. So it’s just impressive that he creates windows with his movement to get the ball down the field.”
It probably helps that Allen has been looking at video of the Seahawks’ game against the Lions in Detroit on Sunday. While the Seahawks lost 28-24, Wilson played his best game – completing 71.4 percent of his passes (25 of 35) for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He directed a 12-play, 87-yard drive that ended with his 16-yard TD pass to tight end Zach Miller and gave the Seahawks a 24-21 lead with 5½ minutes to play.
What was the best part of Wilson’s best day?
“I just liked that we were efficient, that we were able to move the ball up and down the field. We scored 24 points,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “There are a lot of positives. Even the last drive, after they went ahead, and then we were able to take it the length of the field. To be able to answer (the Lions’ go-ahead) touchdown I though spoke a lot of him and our offense.”
Wilson, however, isn’t willing to go there. Yes, he threw the ball well. Yes, he displayed poise under pressure. Yes, he was in command in the huddle. Yes, it was the kind of performance the passing game can build on.
“The passing game was definitely a little better. We made some more plays,” Wilson said. “I think we did a great job of executing. The offensive line did a tremendous job of protecting (he was not sacked for the first time this season). They gave me all day to make some decisions against a great defensive line.”
OK, that was the “we” element against the Lions. But what about the “me” aspect?
“I’m never really pleased, to be honest with you, when you lose,” Wilson. “It doesn’t matter how well I do, or how poorly I do. The focus playing this quarterback position in this league, and all I really care about, is winning. It’s about our football team. I’m not really focused on that part of it.”
Take it from a rookie from who doesn’t feel like one, or act like one.