Focus on: K.J. Wright’s playoff memories

Posted Jan 23, 2014

K.J. Wright is a football player – and a good player, at that – not a spectator of football. So the Seahawks’ linebacker wanted that playoff win over the Saints in the worst way, because he didn’t want his season to end in the worst way.

There’s no need to ask K.J. Wright for his best playoff memory. It was etched on his face as he stood on the sideline during the Seahawks’ divisional playoff game two weeks ago.

But the third-year linebacker didn’t even play in the game because of the bone he broke in his foot during the Week 14 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco. And that’s exactly the point.

Wright needed the Seahawks to win that game against the New Orleans Saints for his season to continue, so none of the 68,388 fans at CenturyLink Field on that Saturday afternoon were pulling for a victory more than him. And his teammates obliged 23-15, setting up the rematch with the 49ers in Sunday’s NFC Championship game and putting Wright back on the field.

“I was telling the guys the whole time, ‘Let’s make this happen. I’ve got to come back. I’ve got to get back on that field,’ ” Wright said in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, before the Seahawks’ first practice in their preparations for the Feb. 2 game against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

That’s because the other option for Wright was a painful as the foot injury that turned him into a spectator for four games.

“I didn’t want my last play to be the play where I broke my foot,” Wright said.

And the memory of the play that forced Wright to limp off the field at Candlestick Park midway through the second quarter was painful enough without the injury, as Colin Kaepernick completed a 20-yard pass to Anquan Boldin to set up 49ers’ third field goal that gave them a 9-7 lead.

But that game is history. As is the surgery Wright needed to place a screw in his foot. And the rehab that followed. And the anxiety that came with being a football player who had to stand and watch his team play.

Wright wasn’t at full speed in the NFC Championship game, so he played sparingly. But this bye week between the conference title game and the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium next Sunday is just what Wright needed.

“I wasn’t quite ready for a full game, and to take on all those plays,” Wright said. “So hopefully after these two weeks, it will be feeling real good so I’ll be ready to go.”

The addition of the length the 6-foot-4 Wright provides will be beneficial in defending all the things Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will throw at the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense, and who he’ll be throwing to – especially 6-5, 255-pound tight end Julius Thomas, who had 12 touchdown catches among his 65 receptions during the regular season and has added 14 receptions in two playoff games; and running back Knowshon Moreno, who had 60 receptions and three TDs during the regular season to go with his 1,038 rushing yards and 10 TDs.

“This will be our biggest challenge we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Wright, a fourth-round draft choice in the 2011 NFL Draft that also delivered cornerbacks Richard Sherman (fifth round) and Byron Maxwell (sixth round) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (seventh round), who stepped in while Wright was injured.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons and they’ve got a genius back there at quarterback. So we’ve got our hands full with this guy on the biggest stage in the world.”

So why was Wright smiling?

“I’m ready, man,” he said. “I love having the opportunity to just go out there with my guys and play a football game and make our dreams come true.”

And if that happens, Wright will have a new favorite postseason memory.