K.J. Wright thought on a few occasions that the 2018 season would end up being his last with the Seahawks.
First, Wright injured his knee in the preseason, an injury that required arthroscopic surgery and led to him missing Seattle's first six games of the season. Then after just three games back, Wright's knee forced him to miss more time before he eventually made it back in Week 16. Wright played well in Seattle's final regular season game and in a playoff loss to Dallas, but considering he was heading into free agency as a 29-year-old coming off a knee injury, he figured the Seahawks might not bring him back.
Then in March the Seahawks re-signed Mychal Kendricks, who in 2018 had played Wright's usual weakside linebacker spot while he was injured, and that news, combined with the injury, led Wright to believe that the writing was on the wall.
"I thought when I got hurt, I was like, I need surgery, I'm not coming back," Wright said. "Then on top of that, I found out Kendricks got re-signed and I was like, 'I'm for sure not coming back.'"
But instead of moving on, the Seahawks re-signed Wright to a multi-year deal and moved Kendricks to strongside linebacker so they could get those two and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner on the field together. Wright rewarded the team's faith in him with one of the most productive seasons of his career. Most importantly, Wright stayed healthy for all 16 regular season games, and over the course of those 16 games he posted career highs in tackles (132), interceptions (3) and passes defensed (11).
"I had a mindset coming into his year like it was my redemption tour," Wright said. "I had to prove to myself, prove to everyone who doubted me that I'm still a hell of a football player and I'm going to come out and have an awesome season. It took a lot of help from coaches, training staff, they had a great plan put around me so I could get here and just ball out."
Wright has enjoyed all the plays he has made this season, to be sure, but what he is most proud of has been his ability to be on the field every week after playing in only six games, postseason included, in 2018.
"Easy, I'm most proud of playing 16 games," Wright said when asked to rank his 2019 accomplishments. "I'm telling you, a lot of people were down on me. I heard the noise. I was reading the comments saying I was done, the Seahawks need to move on, he's not going to be able to make it through another season. I heard all of it, and that stuff fuels me. I love proving people wrong, and I did it in a pretty good fashion."
Wright has more than 100 tackles in five of his past six seasons, only falling short during last year's injury-shortened campaign, and his 848 career tackles rank third in franchise history behind teammate and close friend Bobby Wagner (1,073) and Eugene Robinson (984). And it isn't just Wright who has enjoyed his bounce-back season.
"It's been amazing watching him play, especially after last year," said Wagner. "He had a lot of struggles last year injury-wise, but he came back. You could see towards the end of the year—I've mentioned before, against Dallas—that kind of transitioned into the next season. He had a career high in interceptions as well. It's really fun to watch him be successful. The man he is, the person he is. The way he prepares. I wasn't surprised by it. I was very, very happy for him."
Said defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., "K.J. is just one of a kind. Extremely unique. He's a really heady, smart, instinctive guy. He spends a lot of time studying, watching film, talking ball. He's just a gym rat. He loves ball. He knows how to carry it over to action on the football field. He's been doing it for a long time. He's, no question, one of the best."
The Seahawks and the Eagles will meet this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for wild card weekend during the 2019 NFL Playoffs. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.