Russell Wilson has opened 2020 training camp pretty in a similar fashion to how he started camp last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so on, which is to say he has started camp by looking like what he is: one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Practically every throw is on target, deep balls hit receivers in stride, and the ball explodes out of his right hand, again, just like it does every year. But while this all feels familiar by now when watching the seven-time Pro-Bowler, Wilson feels like in a lot of ways he is just getting started.
Over the past few years, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has pointed out on multiple occasions that, as good as Wilson has been, he's still growing. Unlike a lot of positions in the NFL, quarterbacks can and often do hit their primes in their 30s, and so for all Wilson has already accomplished, he's still learning the position. Wilson is coming off a season in which he was a second-team All-Pro, and an offseason in which he appeared at or near the top of just about every player raking you could possibly find, including ranking No. 2 on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2020 list, but he hardly feels like all his past accomplishments or recent accolades represent the peak of his career.
"I think I'm definitely in the zone, and also too, from a play standpoint, every game I want to put on a performance," Wilson said Thursday. "Every play, every practice, I want to be great. I wake up thinking about being great today, it doesn't leave your mind. Everything I do is purposeful. There's no wasted moments, no wasted energy."
Wilson talked about how some of that greatness comes from the way he prepares and studies the game, joking that the recent birth of his and Ciara's son, Win Harrison, means he has to be more efficient than ever. And he also pointed out that, despite the wear and tear that comes with playing every game of an eight-year career, he also feels great physically heading into his ninth season.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel like I'm just hitting the beginning of my prime of my career, and I feel like I got a lot more ball to play, 10, 15 more years of play. I want my best years to be ahead of me. That's what I'm excited about; the best years are ahead of me… For me personally I feel like I'm the best I've ever been, but I feel like I'm only at 70 percent capacity. I feel like I've got a whole 'nother 30 (percent) more in me.
"When I step on the field, I want the other team to know they're in trouble. Doesn't matter if it's the first play the game or the 25th play the game, every time I want to feel my mentality is to make it tough on defense."
While there is no denying Wilson's individual greatness, he is also quick to point out that his success is also the product of the people around him—he named off about two thirds of Seattle's receivers and tight ends while making that point—which is why for year he has hosted offseason workouts with a number of offensive players.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that Wilson couldn't organize one of his summer camps this year, but he did find time to safely get in work with teammates on a one-on-one basis, and as Carroll noted Wednesday, that particularly has paid off when it comes to newcomers Greg Olsen and Phillip Dorsett II, and second-year receiver DK Metcalf.
"He worked his tail off and he had a great offseason," Carroll said of Wilson. "He was so disciplined about it. The effect that he has on other players is really obvious, because he threw with a lot of guys over the course of time, got together with a bunch of guys. You can just see the carryover—they're already talking our language. The work he has done with Greg Olsen and DK in particular, and Phillip Dorsett, we're rolling. DK had a bunch of room to grow with as a young guy; (Wilson) had to learn Greg and Greg had to learn Russ, and same with Phillip, and those guys are in here flying around. They look great, they look like they know what they're doing. They already are showing the kind of detail work that you have to work to earn, and Russell was really in the middle of making that happen."
Wilson said he did individual work with that trio, as well as Will Dissly, and spent a lot of quality time with DK Metcalf, who he said is, "like a little brother to me, almost," including a trip to Mexico early in the offseason before COVID-19 shut down travel, where he taught Metcalf how to swim.
"The biggest thing that I've learned over the past few years, in particular is that quality time with the guys," Wilson said. "… (The offseason) was definitely different, it was definitely unique, but that quality time and we were able to spend getting those reps was key. Obviously I've thrown so many footballs to Tyler (Lockett), but that was really key just to spend time with the guys who I hadn't really spent a great amount of time with. DK's still only a rookie, it's going to be his second year and we're expecting a lot a lot out of him, so to be able to get all that quality time was amazing and build our friendship as well."
And of course, when it comes to Wilson's continued growth, a big question will always be whether or not that means putting the offense more in Wilson's hands in 2020. Carroll still believes in the importance of the running game and balance, but he has also said on 710 ESPN Seattle this offseason that Wilson's "Command, his control, his understanding of everything we can put forth allows him to be the best he's ever been. And in that, we want him to have more opportunity to be the factor in the game and control the game."
Asked about one of Seahawks Twitter's favorite hashtags, which calls for the Seahawks to "Let Russ Cook," Wilson said his goal is to win, whatever that takes, but he also knows that a lot of times having the ball in his hands is a good way to achieve that big-picture goal.
"The reality is I want to win games, that's all I really care about is going out there and finding ways to win," Wilson said. "For me in my career, I've always wanted to be on this progression, constantly growing, constantly getting better from year to year, from game to game. I can say that I've dialed myself into that every single day and committed myself to that every single day… At the end of the day, I want the ball in my hands. I want to be able to make plays and give us a chance to win. That doesn't always mean just me chucking it around, but it does mean that—I feel like when I get the more times I have the ball in my hands, the more things can happen. I think the defense worries about that too."
Photos from the practice field on the first team practice of Seahawks Training Camp at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.