One of Russell Wilson’s many goals is a 20-year NFL career, and whether or not the Seahawks quarterback will really play into his 40s remains to be seen, but 20 is a nice round-number goal that represents something more significant than the number itself, which is the way Wilson is working towards that kind of longevity.
Wilson has been remarkably durable in his four-year NFL career, not only starting every game, but taking part in every single practice. Some of that has to do with Wilson’s athletic ability, some of it is toughness, and yes, there’s probably even some luck involved, but the other reason Wilson stays healthy, and plans to do so for many, many years, is the way he takes care of his body during the season and especially in the offseason.
In particular, Wilson has spent his last two offseasons focusing on his lower body. Last year, Wilson was worked on improving his speed, which is again a goal this year, but he is also focusing specifically on exercises that will aid injury prevention, as trainer Ryan Flaherty recently detailed in an interview at ESPN.com.
“Leg strength, as you know, is a huge part of throwing,” Wilson said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “I’m really starting to figure that out, the more I figure out my body and little things of how to play for a long time. I want to play 15-plus more years, and a big part of that is taking care of my legs and getting stronger, but also getting more flexible, more mobile, that’s a big part of it. Especially the way I play, I want to be able to get away from guys, but also move efficiently. Move efficiently inside the pocket and all that, so a lot of that is leg strength. Ryan Flaherty is one of my trainers, has been working with me for a long time. I use Gunnar Peterson too is great down there in California, so those two guys have really got me prepared in the right way. I want to keep using that. Keep using that for speed and strength and most importantly throwing the football. That is a big part of it and as you go on and play 16 games, hopefully 19 and hopefully you win all 19, but you just play one game at a time and that allows you to. That longevity is crucial.”
In four NFL seasons, Wilson has been sacked 164 times, been hit plenty of other times, and carried the ball 411 times, yet as he prepares for the 2016 season, Wilson says, “I feel great. Whenever somebody asks me how I feel, I say, ‘I feel like I’m 18.”
That’s a feeling Wilson isn’t ready to give up even though he’ll be 10 years older than that by the end of this season.
“I think one of the things I have really been working on with Ryan Flaherty and Gunnar Peterson is just really the longevity aspect of it,” Wilson said. “Just trying to stay as mobile as possible, as strong as possible. Really take care of my body and getting the body work to make sure you are ready to go for another season…. I think the biggest thing is continue to push myself in the weight room, in the running and the strength work. I am doing a lot of shoulder work just to make sure my arm is ready to go and strong and stronger than ever and it is definitely paying off. You just keep your head down and keep working.”
One thing Wilson and the Seahawks don’t want to do to aid longevity is alter the way he plays. Wilson has always maintained that he’d prefer to pass from the pocket rather than scramble and make plays with his legs, but Wilson’s ability to escape and make magic happen when a play breaks down is also an incredibly valuable weapon for Seattle’s offense. Wilson won’t stop running in 2016, even as the passing game continues to grow, but what he and his coaches do expect is for Wilson to be smart when those opportunities to run do arise.
“When we run the ball with him, he’s got a great understanding of what we’re asking him to do, a great understanding of how to be a runner, and then a great understanding of how to protect himself,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “There’s times that you might want to go for that extra yard, but the majority of the time it’s get down and protect yourself. And there’s no better guy in the NFL at making those decisions.”
Photos from the second of three mandatory Seahawks minicamp practices held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.