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Wright where he belongs
K.J. Wright didn’t truly realize just how much he loves playing football until he couldn’t.
“This game is really special to me,” the Seahawks’ strongside linebacker said Wednesday, when he practiced for the second time since getting a concussion that sidelined him for one game and almost all of another. “When I was standing there on the sideline, I saw how much I wanted to be out there.”
Wright’s standing-and-longing stint began when he took a blow to the helmet on the first play of the Week 9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. The concussion also forced him to sit the next week, when the Seahawks beat the New York Jets, also at home.
The bye week gave Wright the extra time he needed to get right.
“It was a good thing, in a way,” he said. “I didn’t get too hurt, where I’d miss the whole season. But I got hurt enough to realize playing this game isn’t something you should take for granted. You love this, so you should take every day like it’s your last.”
It’s impossible to overstate what getting Wright back can mean to the NFL’s No. 3-ranked defense as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami. He was, after all, leading the team in tackles before getting his concussion.
“It’s a huge get-back,” coach Pete Carroll said. “K.J. comes back to us and he brings savvy and awareness in our system. He’s a great communicator on the field. He helps the guy up front. He helps Bobby (Wagner, the rookie middle linebacker). It’s just a big deal.
“Plus, he’s a terrific playmaker for us. So it’s a big boost for us to get him back out there.”
Did we mention that Wright makes a lot of tackles? Like his 11-tackle efforts against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. And his nine-tackle games against the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.
Entering that game against the Vikings, Wright’s 63 tackles led the team. Then, it was Wright who went down while trying to make a tackle. Now, he’s walking that tightrope that it trying to do too much to compensate for the lost time, when what he really needs to do is just what he had been doing.
“I’ve been playing this game for a long time,” said Wright, a fourth-round draft choice last year who proved to be so good that the coaches had to find a way to get him on the field – even when it meant trading linebacker Aaron Curry, who has been the fourth pick overall in the 2009 draft.
“So I know what I’m capable of. I know how important I am to this team. So I’m just going to go out there, like I have since I first got here, and do what I do – which is produce out there on the field and just play football.”
If there were positives to Wright being unable to play, it was allowing second-year linebacker Mike Morgan to play in his place in the base defense and providing veteran linebacker Leroy Hill the chance to play more in the nickel.
“Last game, it forced Leroy to be more vocal without K.J. in there,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “We asked more of him. So in a way, it helped us. Leroy became more talkative in the huddle and on the field.”
As for Morgan’s contributions, Carroll said, “We’re really proud of Mike and his efforts, and he did a fine job on special teams, too, which is a big accomplishment for a first-time starter.”
The real plus, however, is having Wright back where he belongs – and the defense needs him.
“It will great to have him back,” Bradley said. “He’s a very good player for us.”
The smile on Wright’s face as he was talking about getting the chance to play again showed just how much he missed playing.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “It’s been a long time. So I’m ready to get out there and just help my team get wins.”