The Seattle Seahawks are more invested than ever in Russell Wilson, both offensively and financially, so it was no surprise when coach Pete Carroll expressed worry Monday when asked about the NFL’s stance regarding questionable hits on quarterbacks.
As for Wilson?
“Nah, I don’t have any concerns,” he told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
Wilson even seemed perplexed by the debate rekindled Saturday when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs hit Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford low on a read-option play, something Wilson and the Seahawks use with devastating effect. Wilson’s 849 rushing yards in 2014 led all quarterbacks and were a major reason Seattle piled up 408 more yards on the ground than any other team.
“Honestly, you play football the way it’s supposed to be played,” added Wilson, who did not see Suggs go low on Bradford, a play that drew a penalty but should have been considered legal according to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. “I think that’s the way I look at it.”
Wilson, who signed a four-year contract extension worth nearly $88 million last month, excels at breaking off chunk runs while evading the full brunt of defenders’ tackles and often coasts out of bounds untouched.
But he is frequently exposed. Wilson, who has scored 11 career touchdowns on foot, has averaged more than 100 rushes per year in his three NFL seasons with a career-high 118 coming in 2014. And there is some angst in Seattle about how he could be affected by an unsettled offensive line that could have three players starting in new spots.
“You’re always worried about your franchise quarterback, right?” tight end Jimmy Graham, who cost the Seahawks Pro Bowl center Max Unger in a March trade, told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially when your franchise quarterback does some read-option stuff. But Russ is really smart with it and has a really good understanding of when to take chances and when not to.”
Still, Carroll said he would seek further clarification from Blandino and the league about what kind of leeway defensive players will be afforded.
“Yeah, I have seen a couple of them and really thought that they were worthy of being noted as penalty plays,” Carroll said. “Obviously we’re really tuned into that. We’re counting on the league to do a really good job of doing that well so we take care of the QBs. You can force this thing about they are a runner when they don’t have the ball in their hands and the ball is already handed off and gone. Guys need to make good decisions hopefully. So we’ll be very much a part of that discussion if things continue like it’s going, because it’s not right.
“We’re really tuned into that, so I’m anxious to see what comes up, because it certainly is not the way to want it to go. I would think, as we always err in the preseason to over-officiate, I think this is an area in particular that I’m sure we’ll hear something this week.”
And making a point of emphasis to the NFL probably can’t hurt, even for a player as generally savvy as Wilson is about self-preservation.
“Rightfully, Pete’s gonna defend his running quarterback,” former Seahawks quarterback Brock Huard, who now covers the team for ESPN Radio in Seattle, told USA TODAY Sports.
“All they’re gonna ask for is to hit (Wilson) above the waist. Don’t dive at the knees. If you want to hit me in the sternum or the chest plate when I hand off or I’m riding that mesh point a little bit longer and defenders have indecision, I think you’re OK with those hits. It’s the knockout shots below the waist – rolling into the knees and ankles – that I think any coach will rightfully defend.”