RENTON — There was disappointment in the Seattle Seahawks locker room to be sure, but there was also optimism about what this team can do in the future.
Yet as players packed up their belongings, said their goodbyes and discussed the season that was, there was one notable absence.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, a day after Seattle’s season ended in excruciating fashion, and eight months before the next meaningful game, was not packing up his things just yet. He was busy studying the game film of his team’s 30-28 loss to Atlanta.
No, seriously, he was.
And don’t think for a second that Wilson’s maniacal work ethic and the optimism felt in Seattle’s locker room aren’t very much related. After years of heading into the offseason with more questions than answers at the game’s most important position, the Seahawks can look forward to 2013 knowing that they not only have a talented young nucleus in place, but also a developing young star leading their offense.
“It’s enormous,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said when asked the significance of having found a quarterback like Wilson. “Everybody in this building, and everybody that follows us, realizes what kind of player he is, and he’s just getting started. We can talk about Russell forever because there is so much to talk about, but it’s not just his way of going about it, it’s his ability to play on game day. He has so many characteristics that are so positive, but put him out on the field on game day, he’s a baller.”
The players sense that too, which is why Wilson was able to win over the locker room right off the bat, and why players now can’t wait to see where Wilson can help lead the team next season.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” said fullback Michael Robinson. “Russell is just getting started, that’s the thing, man. He can will you to a victory. That’s what you want in a leader, that’s what you want in a quarterback. He can only get better, and I look forward to seeing it. … The biggest jump of improvement is usually from the first to second year for all players, so I look forward to big things from him next year.”
Wilson will allow himself a bit of a break — he still owes Ashton, his wife of a year, a honeymoon — but otherwise he plans on spending most of his offseason in Seattle figuring out how to make himself and the Seahawks better. And for an athlete who used to juggle college football and a professional baseball career, working nonstop is the norm.
“I’ve never been used to a break, to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “I played two sports my whole life, so it’s going to be different for me. I’ve got to adjust. … I may have to go to the batting cage or something to relax a little bit.”
At this point, nothing Wilson does, whether it’s leading a fourth-quarter comeback or working non-stop off the field, will really surprise anyone in Seattle’s locker room. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why the Seahawks are so excited about their future even as they struggle to accept that their season just ended.
“After the Chicago game, you had a team full of believers that he could do anything,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, speaking about the touchdown drives Wilson led in the fourth quarter and overtime as Seattle defeated the Bears on Dec. 2. “We’d be surprised if he walked on water and fell in. He’s a great quarterback, he’s a great person, and he deserves the success he has. He works hard for it, he does everything you could ask of a quarterback and more.”
And to be fair, the Seahawks have plenty of reasons for optimism beyond the play of their young quarterback. The Seahawks are young, which means a lot of these players have room to grow. And only two starters — linebacker Leroy Hill and defensive tackle Alan Branch — are free agents. Also, the good health that helped Seattle finish the season so strong will also lead to a more productive offseason.
Carroll said that only defensive end Chris Clemons, who tore his ACL in Seattle’s win in Washington, requires a major offseason surgery. Just about everyone else should be available when the team gets back together in a few months for offseason workouts.
Add all that up, and it explains why, even a day after the season ended tantalizingly close to the Super Bowl, tackle Breno Giacomini walked into the locker room Monday yelling, “Only 193 days ‘til training camp!”
Still, bright future or not, it was hard for players not to look at how well the team had played of late and wonder what might have been.
“It was a special year, man,” said Hill. “It was real special. It’s a season I’ll remember when I’m an old man looking back on my career. You just hate to waste a team this good, that’s how I feel. We’ve got a special team, we could do a lot of special things, and to just fall short, that’s the most disappointing thing.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.