John Schneider can’t elude questions about Russell Wilson

Posted Feb 21, 2013

When John Schneider stepped to the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, many of the questions fielded by the Seahawks’ GM involved a player the team drafted last year: Russell Wilson.

INDIANAPOLIS – John Schneider would like Russell Wilson to do one thing as he begins to prepare for his second NFL season: Take a break.

Not give it a break, but take more time for himself.

“Relaxing. Getting a break. Taking a vacation,” Schneider, the Seahawks’ fourth-year general manager, said Thursday when asked about the quarterback who performed beyond the expectations of just about everyone during his rookie season.

“He needs to get away a little bit. You know?”

When Schneider took his turn at the podium in the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium, there were more questions about the player the Seahawks selected in the third round of last year’s NFL Draft than the draft-eligible players Schneider and staff and coach Pete Carroll and his staff are here to evaluate during the next six days at the Scouting Combine.

And it’s understandable after what Wilson did as a rookie, when he compiled a resume that featured team accomplishments – the third-best regular-season record in club history (11-5) and the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983; as well as individual achievements – 26 touchdown passes in the regular season to tie the NFL rookie record set by Peyton Manning in 1997 and a passer rating of 100.0 that bettered the rookie mark of 98.1 fashioned by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.

Yes, Schneider had an inkling that Wilson would become a franchise player at the game’s most pivotal position; he just didn’t expect those expectations to be realized so quickly.

“We like him a lot,” Schneider said as a smile began to spread across his face. “For me to tell you that he was going to do what he did in his first year, I’d be lying to you. We were able to acquire Matt Flynn (in free agency), so we just had a great setup either way around, all the way around. (Since-traded) Tarvaris Jackson actually did a lot of good stuff for us, too, the previous season. So we felt like we had a good setup. But to say that I thought he was going to do everything he did, I’d be lying.”

What did Schneider see a year ago – that others couldn’t, or wouldn’t – which led him to believe in Wilson?

“Well, kind of what you see,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen this fast. Just a very poised, smart, intelligent, accurate, great-feet, hardworking guy that is eventually going to out-will you.”

Now, Wilson needs to discover his off switch – at least during this portion of the offseason when the players really are off.

“I was telling him the other day that he went from the Rose Bowl (with the University of Wisconsin) all the way through this (draft) process,” Schneider said. “He did the Jon Gruden QB Camp last year, went through the draft, was in it right away (after being selected by the Seahawks), studied his tail off and just competed like crazy.

“He was over at the University of Washington, throwing to some of our receivers and some of their receivers. Then, he came into a very long rookie season, going as far as we went.”

Just reading Wilson’s 2012 itinerary is a need-a-nap experience.

But just because the Seahawks’ season was over after their two-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome, Russell wasn’t done.

He was part of the NFL Network’s coverage for the conference championship games the following weekend. Then, he went to Pro Bowl in Hawaii, where he threw three touchdown passes in leading the NFC on five consecutive scoring drives to open the second half. Then, he was off to New Orleans where he was seemingly here, there and everywhere in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

“I saw him the following Monday after the Super Bowl,” Schneider offered. “I said, ‘Man, you’ve got to take some vacation. You know? You need to get away a little bit.”

Schneider then sighed before adding, “But I guess he was in there (Virginia Mason Athletic Center) working yesterday, so …”

In his defense, Wilson has explained on several occasions that what he’s doing is taking it easy. Or easier. Remember, this is a guy who used to jump right from football into baseball while in college, when he also was taking classes. So concentrating on just one sport is a mini-vacation.

Schneider’s podium time and follow-up session in the hallway wasn’t all about the relentlessness that is Russell Wilson’s approach to the game, however. The Seahawks’ GM also touched on other topics:

The franchise tag – The Seahawks have until March 4 to use the restrictive designation on one of their players who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, just don’t expect it to happen.

“We’re still evaluating that,” Schneider said. “I don’t necessarily think we’ll use it.”

The recovery of sack-leader Chris Clemons – The team’s Leo defensive end is ahead of schedule in his rehab after tearing a ligament in his left knee during the wild-card playoff win over the Washington Redskins, but it’s too early to determine when he might be ready to join any on-field activities.

“He texted me the other day and said he’s doing great,” Schneider said.

And how does the uncertainty over a player who has 33.5 sacks in his first three seasons with the team affect the Seahawks as they prepare for the draft as well as free agency?

“Well, we’re going to panic like crazy and try and draft like four pass-rushers,” Schneider said, before blowing his cover by laughing.

Flynn’s future – Wilson’s sudden emergence left Flynn to throw only nine passes in his first season with the Seahawks. While Schneider labels having Wilson and Flynn “a great setup,” he added, “I feel very blessed that we have two quarterbacks, two starting-caliber guys.”

Schneider also stressed that the situation was not the fault of Flynn, but an indication of just how special Wilson is.

“What happened last year didn’t really have a reflection on what Matt did, or Tarvaris for that matter,” he said. “It was really what Russell did in terms of just kind of stepping forward and taking charge.”

As for Flynn’s future with the team, Schneider said, “It’s so early. Everybody is in the middle of the draft process. So it’s not like I’ve had a chance to sit down with other general managers and some of the people I know around the league to talk about what their situation is. As you guys well know, we’re always going to listen to everything. And if we’re not doing that, we think we’re not doing our job.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean we will do something with Matt.”

Social media – Schneider said the team uses Facebook and Twitter in its evaluation process of draft prospects, as well as the players’ media interviews at the Combine.

“We take it all in, absolutely,” he said. “How they handle themselves in front of you guys. And the Twitter stuff and the Facebook stuff is huge. It’s all a part of who that person is.

“When you make mistakes, in my opinion, it’s about not knowing the guy.”

Richard Sherman, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 who developed into an All-Pro cornerback in 2012, has had a running Twitter debate with Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets about who is the best shutdown corner in the NFL. During Schneider’s time at the podium, a graphic displaying a statistical comparison of the two appeared on a TV screen that was facing Schneider.

Asked about that in the hallway, he smiled and said, “Yeah, Richard was just on TV. We know Richard, and to us it’s not a really big deal. It’s what makes him who he is. It’s one of the things that made us fall in love with him, and it gives him the confidence to play the way he plays.

“He feels that he’s the best cornerback in the league, and God Bless him.”