Backing away so fast from the trade talk that he generated last winter, Russell Wilson left virtual skid marks.
But after a half-hour video conference Thursday otherwise filled with the schmaltzy platitudes we have come to expect — conveying affection for all things Seahawks and Seattle — Wilson, in his first interview since The Disturbance, finally let slip something that genuinely explained his dour mood.
Sitting in the commissioner’s suite at the Super Bowl in Tampa — he was being honored as the NFL’s Man of the Year for his charity works — watching 43-year-old Tom Brady cut up the Kansas City Chiefs, Wilson was miserable.
“Listen, when I’m sitting at the Super Bowl and watching the Super Bowl, I should be pissed off, right?’’ he said, offering up the first mild public profanity of his pro career. “At the end of the day you shouldn’t be wanting to sit there and watch the game. You should be wanting to play, especially when you played it twice.”
If he had been that blunt and honest in his public remarks thereafter, he may not have needed to resort to the not-saying-I-want-a-trade-but-here’s-four-teams manipulation that set Seattle and NFL spinning.
But unlike his counterpart in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, Wilson is not comfortable with public confrontation. So he let his agent, Mark Rodgers (no relation) be the bad guy, which is what agents are paid to do.
Authorizing ESPN’s Adam Schefter to use his name in a tweet, enhancing its credibility, Rodgers said while Wilson, who has a no-trade clause, doesn’t want to be traded, here’s four teams that were acceptable.
Russell Wilson has told the Seahawks he wants to play in Seattle but, if a trade were considered, the only teams he would go to are the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders and Bears, his agent Mark Rodgers said to ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2021
Chicago fans, who haven’t beheld a great quarterback since Fred Flintstone hurled a real rock for the Bedrock Bears, were delirious. We know now, of course, they were suckered. That makes two Rodgers that best not walk alone on Rush Street.
In Seattle, fans were bewildered. It was as if the most well-regarded kid in class shouted profanities at the teacher, then went into a silent pout. Thursday Wilson tried hard to make us believe that, well, it really didn’t happen the way people were saying it did.
“There was a lot of confusion,” he said. “I think I was in Bahamas or somewhere, and everybody was saying that I requested a trade. That wasn’t true. So we made it clear that I did not request a trade. Then there’s teams being thrown around that I was gonna go to.
“It got blown out of proportion a little bit.”
No and no — everyone understood he didn’t ask for a trade, and the notion of Wilson’s wildly successful tenure in Seattle might be broken up was a big damn sports story because the on-the-record source was the agent, not just media speculation.
Although they won’t say so publicly, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were pissed off too. A public airing of grievances violated Carroll’s prime directive: Protect the team.
According to Carroll, conversations with Wilson were immediate and several.
“The subject matter teetered on that topic, for sure,” Carroll said at a pre-draft presser in March. “Because it looked like there was a problem. But, there really wasn’t a problem. I think that we’re very clear about it now.”
Now, yes. Then?
The Seahawks kept strictly to a regimen of media silence, correctly understanding that there was nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, in a public back-and-forth with Wilson’s side.
But they did fire a discreet shot.
In his annual letter to season-ticket holders seeking renewals, club president Chuck Arnold extolled all the virtues of the players they knew were returning. Wilson’s name was absent. While Carroll publicly claimed there was no chance they would trade Wilson, the silence in the letter seems a passive-aggressive threat to give Wilson what he wanted — as in, be careful what you wish for.
Asked about it Thursday, Wilson offered offered the session’s only small peek behind the curtain.
“Obviously that was a big thing during that time, and that made it a little bit interesting,” he said, smiling nervously. Then he dissembled.
“I think it was a typo, or it was done on accident,” he said, still smiling. “Chuck and I had a great conversation. Pete and I had great conversation, John too.”
Then he offered up a bit of insight into what really may have been a turning point in the tempest, perhaps inspired by the Seahawks calling his bluff.
“The thing about winning at the highest level,” he said, “is the reality that your mind’s got to be stronger than your feelings. You can’t get emotional, or have feelings about little things.”
It seems that Wilson realized the season-ending loss to the Rams was a trigger that unleashed resentments about being sacked, as well as disagreements about playcalling and personnel. In other words, he was thinking like every Seahawks fan who wants another Super Bowl.
Sure, he may have wanted to go to another market to “grow his brand” and his contacts list for post-career ambitions. But the world knows how to find him, wherever he is. Geography has become irrelevant.
The fact was, that even as another year passed without a Super Bowl despite a 12-4 record, there was not necessarily a quicker route back with any of the teams.
If I were Carroll, I’m saying you’ll never get it as good as you have it here, and I’m turning over the keys to the offense to new coordinator Shane Waldon, whom you approved.
But that’s me. Whatever Carroll did choose to say seemed to have ended the tense chapter, according to Wilson.
“In my heart of hearts I love the city; I love this place,” he said. “I love everything about it. . . . we have a lot going on in this place.
“I love the fans. I love my teammates. I love this coaching staff. I love this building . . . Every morning I wake up, I wake up to win another Super Bowl for the Seattle Seahawks, and that’s my mission.”
He was working hard to persuade the public that whatever that was in February, it was over: “I got what I wished for,” he said.
Feel free to forgive yourself if you are cautious in your re-embrace, thinking his enthusiasm might be a typo, or blown out of proportion.