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Russell Wilson’s second training camp practice comes with a catch

Posted Jul 26, 2014

They might play on opposite sides of the ball, but quarterback Russell Wilson and free safety Earl Thomas have a similar approach to playing the game that helps set them and their team apart.


And on the second day of training camp, Russell Wilson caught a pass?

That’s right. It happened on a play during Saturday’s practice at the Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing after the third-year quarterback gave the ball to wide receiver Phil Bates on an end-around. But rather than go around the end, Bates stopped and lofted a pass to the passer – as Wilson had circled out of the backfield and into the left flat.

So how does the passer-turned-receiver rate the arm of the receiver-turned-passer?

“Bates’ pass was on the money,” Wilson said with a smile. “You know, he used to play quarterback.”

And Wilson’s role-reversal play came with style points, as he slid to the turf as three defenders were converging on him.

So much for the answer to the “What’s Next?” mantra when it comes to the quarterback who already has accomplished so much: a 28-9 record as the starter, including playoffs, since being a third-round draft choice in 2012; 26 touchdown passes that first season to tie Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record; the Seahawks’ first road playoff win since 1983 in a 2012 wild-card game against the Washington Redskins; and, of course, the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl title with the 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2.

Coach Pete Carroll says that Wilson has reached the stage where nothing is too big for him, and it is apparent in the way the QB is handling the little things in his third summer with the team.

“He’s a different guy,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said when asked to compare Russell Wilson 3.0 to Russell Wilson 2.0. “He’s more in control. He’s giving me a hard time, kind of looking me off. Sometimes I think he holds it a little longer because no pass rush is coming.

“But he’s on the right track. He’s a great leader. He watches film, just like I watch film.”

And Thomas and Wilson have taken one of the cornerstones of Pete Carroll’s coaching philosophy – Always Compete – to the extreme. Wilson’s work ethic already has reached legendary status because of how early he gets to Virginia Mason Athletic Center each day, and how late he stays each night.

There’s always more video to review because, as Wilson is fond of saying, “The separation is in the preparation.”

But the just-as-competitive Thomas isn’t about to concede Wilson anything – on the field during practice or even long after practice has ended.

“We try to see who’s going to stay at VMAC longer,” Thomas said.

Offered Wilson, “There is always a race between Earl and I. Got to figure out who gets here first and who leaves last.”

But it’s all good, because the real winner in this friendly – if fiendish – competition will be the Seahawks.

“I think that Earl and I’s connection is really, really good right now,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to make sure that we hang out off the field, always talk about football, talk about life, talk about trying to be legendary in some way.

“I really feel like you feed off one another. We both want to be great players, we want to be great human beings, we want to be great leaders. So I think to be around each other is a really good thing.”

Wilson and Thomas aren’t just two of the best players on the best team in the NFL; they’re among the best players at their positions in the entire league. And the reason is the almost demented way they approach the game and improving their games.

That was apparent in the way each answered a question about improving his already impressive skills.

Wilson: “The things I’ve been working more than anything is just my patience, my foundation in terms of my balance in the pocket – just staying strong in there. Really working on my protection calls and just really trying to be solid there. And delivering a great ball every time. I told some of the receivers during this offseason throwing with them, ‘It’s not that I can’t miss, it’s that I won’t miss.’ That’s got to be my mentality all the time.”

Thomas: “I asked coach Carroll to watch my blind side – stuff that I can’t see yet. But the thing that really stands out to me is how slow the game is. It’s a different understanding. I think the more and more you know football, you’re able to play fast. You’re able to play faster than everybody. You see what’s coming before it happens and you can be a better communicator by that. And that’s my job. I’m the free safety in the defense. I’m the protection. I’m the last resort. If something breaks, I’ve got to make that play. If you see an indicator, you’ve got to scream. That brings toughness to the whole defense when you communicate that way.”

And that makes it tough for the offense – and quarterback – that faces Thomas and the Seahawks’ defense every day. And that in turn will make things more difficult for the teams that will face the Seahawks – and their pass-catching quarterback – once the regular season starts.

“I definitely believe we’re better than a year ago,” Wilson said in one of those that’s-saying-something statements. “It’s a new year and it’s a new beginning. I think the difference is everybody has felt winning before. They know how to get there. They know what it feels like to win. They know what it feels like excel.”