Since winning the job in training camp as a rookie, Russell Wilson has been the starting quarterback for the Seahawks, and on Thursday he started his 165th straight game, postseason included.
But for the first time in those 165 games, Wilson was unable to finish the game due to an injury. Previously, Wilson had either played all of every game of his career, or left late in a game when the Seahawks had a big lead, and he had only missed a handful of plays due to injury throughout his career, most recently in 2017 when he was briefly evaluated for a concussion in a game at Arizona.
While attempting a deep pass to Tyler Lockett in the third quarter of Thursday's 27-16 loss to the Rams, Wilson hit his throwing hand on Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald's arm, and shots on the TV broadcast showed his middle finger bent at an awkward angle. Wilson stayed on the field for the next play, the final one of the possession, and returned for the next possession, but after that Geno Smith took over and played the entire fourth quarter.
"This is a significant night because Russell wasn't able to finish the second half," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's got a badly-sprained finger that we need to figure out. There's work to be done in assessing all of that. Russell is one of the great healers of all time, and he'll do whatever he can to get back as soon as absolutely possible."
Carroll said it was too soon to have any details when asked specifics on the injury: "I don't have anything for you at all… I really don't know enough about it. I know it was pretty darn sore."
Asked specifically if Wilson might need surgery, Carroll said, "I don't know that. I don't have any idea about that right now."
Carroll said ultimately Wilson and trainers realized he couldn't finish the game because he couldn't properly grip the ball heading into a fourth quarter in which the Seahawks, who were trailing, were going to need to throw the ball a lot.
"He wasn't able to hold onto the football the way he needed to throw it, because we needed to throw it all over the place, and we didn't know what he would be able to do, he was just unsure," Carroll said. "I trust him. If he could have, he would have."
"Russ knows his body. He knows what he can do… He knew that this wouldn't help us tonight."
If there was any silver lining in Wilson's injury, it was that it gave Geno Smith his first chance to play meaningful regular-season snaps in three seasons as Wilson's backup, and Smith played well, leading the Seahawks on two scoring drives, including a 98-yard drive immediately after taking the field on which he was 7-for-7 for 72 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf. If Wilson does miss any time going forward, the Seahawks will be confident in Smith's ability to help lead the offense.
"He did great, he really looked good," Carroll said. "He's been working for that. He's a talented football player, he knows our system. If Geno's going to play for us some as Russ comes back, he showed that we're in good hands."
As for Wilson, Carroll is putting nothing by his quarterback, who has been one of the NFL's most durable players over the past decade.
"He's been just remarkably durable, but the marvelous part about it is his attitude about how he approaches it," Carroll said. "He is going to heal; he is going to heal himself. He is the epitome of the mentality of taking control of how your body functions. He makes stuff happen and does marvelous things."
The Seattle Seahawks take on the Los Angeles Rams for Thursday Night Football during Week 5 of the 2021 season at Lumen Field. This album will be updated throughout the game. Game Action photos are presented by Washington Lottery.