Man, did K.J. Wright earn this Christmas Day off.
The Seahawks’ standout linebacker’s past week just about resembled Clark Griswold’s holiday adventure.
On Dec. 17 Wright missed Seattle’s biggest regular-season game in years, a 42-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams that cost the Seahawks the NFC West championship. He had a concussion.
Last Wednesday, upon his return to practice with a clearer mind, the 28-year old with a wife and 18-month-old son proclaimed the NFL needs to make mandatory concussed players sit out at least one game, because one’s brain is far too important to preserve instead of playing in one football game. Even important ones like that was. It was far more common sense than you get out of most professional athletes, especially in the here-and-now NFL.
Friday, Wright brought his wife Natalie on the team Seahawks’ charter flight from SeaTac Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, to keep her with him for the holiday run-up.
They got food poisoning.
Wright thinks it’s what he ate during the Delta flight. The lesson: Beware of lasagna on cross-country flights.
“Honestly, I think it was the lasagna,” Wright said Sunday in the visiting locker room at AT&T Stadium on Christmas Eve. “As soon as I took my last bite, my stomach got tore up. It was all over from there.”
Wright spent all Saturday sick in bed inside his Seahawks’ team hotel room in Fort Worth. Team medical staffers brought intravenous fluids and medicine for him, but he went nowhere on Christmas Eve eve.
“I didn’t leave the room (Saturday). They just came in and brought me some IVs,” he said, adding he appreciated the Seahawks’ medical staff taking care of his sickened wife, too.
“I’ve never been that bad. That’s never happened to me. I felt much better (Sunday).”
Wright played all 76 defensive snaps in Seattle’s 21-12 victory over Dallas on Sunday that kept the Seahawks alive for the NFC’s final playoff spot. And he had two of the game’s biggest plays.
In the second quarter he recovered a fumble by Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant that Seattle’s Byron Maxwell forced with a precise punch on the ball out of Bryant’s hand at the Cowboys’ 43-yard line. That turnover was the play that finally got the Seahawks going, after the offense went scoreless through the first quarter for the ninth time in 15 games. It set up Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham for Seattle’s first points.
Before Wright’s recovery Seattle’s offense had run 19 plays for 5 total yards, and the Seahawks were down 6-0.
Late in the third quarter, Wright intercepted Dak Prescott’s throw behind Bryant and through the receiver’s arms at the Seattle 20. That kept the Seahawks ahead 14-12. Dallas never got closer to taking the lead.
It was Wright’s first interception since Dec. 16, 2012. For him, that was 83 regular-season and postseason games ago.
“It felt really good. Felt really good,” Wright said. “Been a long time.”
Seattle denied Dallas touchdowns on all six of the Cowboys’ trips into Seahawks’ territory Sunday. The dominant defensive performance answered for now the football nation’s critics who spent all last week saying the “Legion of Boom” was done, the Seahawks’ season if not an era was over.
“What were they saying? What were they saying?!” Wright said, smiling. “That’s fine, man. I really challenged the guys on Wednesday…let’s get back to the basics. We know that we are a good football team. We know that the performance of last week was very uncharacteristic of us. We definitely bounced back and had a tremendous week….We did that.”
Yes, Wright’s Griswold-ish Christmas week ended with his Seahawks beating the Cowboys. Seattle (9-6) needs a victory over Arizona (7-8) on New Year’s Eve and a win by already-in Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (9-6) also on Sunday afternoon to get into the playoffs for the sixth consecutive time.
“I was telling the other linebackers before the game, ‘Let’s treat ourselves to an early Christmas gift, by getting turnovers, by creating a lot of big plays and stuff.’ We definitely did that,” Wright said, before getting on the team plane home Sunday night.
And, no, he wasn’t having the lasagna.
“So we should have a good (Christmas) day,” he said.
The Seahawks got another early Christmas gift late Sunday night while they were on that flight home. The NFL changed its week 17 schedule to put both NFC South games at the same, 1:25 pm Pacific Time starts this coming Sunday as Seattle’s kickoff against Arizona at CenturyLink Field, with no Sunday night games at all this week.
The Panthers (11-4) are already in the playoffs as at least the first wild card, the No.-5 seed, so they might have been inclined to rest quarterback Cam Newton and other starters had they known the result of the Saints-Buccaneers game before they played Sunday. But the league put New Orleans (11-4) at Tampa Bay (4-11) on at the same time Sunday as Carolina-Atlanta. The Saints need a win to win the division. A Saints loss and Panthers victory gives Carolina the division title, and a first-round home game instead of a wild-card game on the road. So now the Panthers are likely to play to win.
Again, the only way Seattle makes the playoffs is by beating the Cardinals and Carolina winning at Atlanta.
The Seahawks got home late Christmas Eve and had Christmas Day off. They return to practice Wednesday for Sunday’s game.