Seahawks’ QB Wilson lives to fight another day

RENTON — The most impressive part of Russell Wilson’s 92-yard rushing performance wasn’t the yardage he gained. It might not even have been the three touchdowns he scored on the ground, paving the way for the Seahawks’ 50-17 blowout over Buffalo.

No, the best part about the rookie quarterback’s performance, which saw him establish franchise records for rushing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback, was that on his nine rushing attempts, he wasn’t hit once.

Wilson’s first rush of the game saw him run out of bounds before he could take a hit. The next time he carried the ball, Wilson scored, and so it went for three dominating quarters — he really didn’t have to do much in the fourth with Matt Flynn taking over early in the quarter.

Wilson’s runs, one through nine, ended in these outcomes — ran out of bounds, scored, ran out of bounds, scored, slid, scored, ran out of bounds, ran out of bounds, and slipped before being touched down by a defender.

Nine carries, no hits. That, more than Wilson’s athleticism, more than his ability to read a defense, is why what the Seahawks are doing with the zone-read option is sustainable.

In Washington, Robert Griffin III is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the NFL, but the Redskins’ quarterback has had a concussion and a knee injury in his rookie season. Wilson? He’s barely been hit, and he almost never takes contact when rushing the ball.

“It’s hugely important,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s part of us trusting to continue to work it. He knows the necessity of getting out of those plays without taking the big hit. He shouldn’t pull the ball unless he’s got a lot of space. He didn’t get it right every time, but it’s really important for the longevity of that aspect of the offense. I love when he runs it out of bounds, makes six or seven yard, and then gets out and gets down on the ground when he has to.”

Carroll and his coaching staff don’t spend a lot of time reminding Wilson to keep himself out of harms way whenever possible. While some quarterbacks relish fighting for every yard, Wilson seems to have mastered the art of living to fight another day. And that’s why the read-option element of Seattle’s offense likely isn’t a gimmick that will soon fade away. People often cite the speed of NFL defenses as the reason that the various option offenses so prevalent in college don’t translate to the pro game. And that’s a factor, but more than that, the reason we don’t see running quarterbacks is that quarterbacks are simply too valuable to put in harm’s way. No position in football, and maybe all of sports, is more important than quarterback, so when those players are constantly running themselves into contact, the long-term risk almost always outweighs the short-term benefit rushing plays can bring.

“It’s about getting the quarterback hit, certainly,” Carroll said. “That’s it. … The main criterion goes back to, you don’t want to get your QB hit. When (Tom Cable) was back at Atlanta with Michael Vick, they ran a lot of stuff with him and he kept the ball a lot. He pushed the envelope more and got hit more, but they had some huge running years there when he was there.”

Vick became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in that 2006 season while Cable was in Atlanta. But Vick has also been one of the most injured quarterbacks in the league, mostly because he is fearless when running the ball. And while that is an admirable trait in an athlete, it is not always one teams want their quarterbacks to possess. In fact, if Carroll sees Wilson start becoming more bold, he would pull the plug on the quarterback runs.

“I trust him,” Carroll said. “He understands what he is doing. He’s demonstrated that he knows how to take care of himself out there. He’s not going to try and be the macho guy and run over somebody. He’s going to go for the next play, and the next play, he’s not going to try to get it all done in one moment. He really understands that. He’s a very mindful, very conscience kid about his position and his role in the offense. He won’t run it again if he starts running up in there sticking his head in there trying to run over linebackers and all. That’s been made clear so he gets it.”

Sherman appeal set for Friday

With cornerback Brandon Browner currently serving a four-game suspension, the Seahawks are waiting to learn the fate of their other starting corner, Richard Sherman, who also reportedly tested positive for a performance enhancing substance. Sherman has maintained his innocence and is appealing the suspension, and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that appeal will be heard on Friday. While it is possible the NFL could immediately rule on the appeal and suspend Sherman for Sunday’s game, the league’s usual protocol is to announce suspensions early in the week, so the more likely scenario, should Sherman lose the appeal, is that his suspension would begin following this weekend’s game.

Injury update

Carroll said defensive tackle Alan Branch, who injured his ankle in Toronto, “Came out way better than we thought,” though Branch will likely not practice until Friday. Defensive tackle Jason Jones also came out of the game with a sore knee. Receiver Sidney Rice, who sat out two days of practice because of a bruise foot, but played against Buffalo, came out of the game OK, but sore, according to Carroll. Rice will likely be limited again in practice this week. Carroll said they are “keeping our fingers crossed” regarding cornerback Walter Thurmond, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. Both he and Marcus Trufant (hamstring) could return this week, but that decision likely won’t come until the end of the week, or perhaps even Sunday.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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