RENTON, Wash. — As Russell Wilson was sidelined by the most significant injury of his career, the toughest game for the Seattle Seahawks quarterback to watch was the first one he missed. Wilson wanted to break Brett Favre’s NFL record of 297 consecutive starts, but his own streak ended at 149 a week after he hurt the middle finger on his throwing hand on Oct. 7.
A consolation prize for Wilson: easily beating the projected timetable for his return.
Wilson was initially told he’d most likely be out 6 to 8 weeks.
“I wasn’t going to take 6 to 8,” he said Thursday in his first comments to reporters since the injury. “That wasn’t in my mind.”
Wilson’s goal was to cut that time in half, which he did by returning to practice Monday — exactly one month after his surgery. He’s on track to play Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, where the Seahawks (3-5) will try to win for the first time since 1999.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to play all the games I’ve been able to play and all the things I’ve been able to do so far in this league,” Wilson said. “I feel like it’s a new beginning, it’s a new start and I feel like it’s time to get going again all over again.”
Coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that Wilson isn’t limited in his return to practice, another sign that he’s likely to play Sunday. Wilson said he noticed his finger during his first practice back on Monday and had to “get through” it, but that it now feels good enough to make all the throws, even if it’s not quite back to normal.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel really close. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m pretty dang close. I would say 90th percentile if not higher. I feel great. I’ve got great conviction about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it. My mindset is better than ever. I’m ready to roll and ready to go.”
Wilson was hurt when he banged his hand against Aaron Donald on a follow-through in the third quarter of Seattle’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. He suffered a tendon rupture (mallet finger), a dislocation and two fractures, he said Thursday.
Dr. Steve Shin performed surgery on Wilson’s finger the next day on what he called the most severe injury he’s ever seen to the throwing hand of an NFL quarterback. The procedure included the insertion of a metal pin.
“I got four or five different opinions and everything else and I knew that Dr. Shin was the best at it and that’s the place I wanted to go to,” Wilson said. “He had a whole plan and he told me the plan. I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it,’ prayed about it and then the next thing I know, I woke up out of it and I felt like I had a whole new finger. My finger was straight. It wasn’t crooked and going left and right anymore.”
At the time of the injury, Wilson thought his finger was merely dislocated. When it wouldn’t go back into place on the sideline, he returned to the game and tried to play through the pain, only to come back out after one series. Geno Smith played the final quarter and started the next three games.
“I played through some stuff before,” Wilson said. “I was always ready to … But also, I have great confidence in Geno and what he could too and he’s been such a great teammate, such a great leader in such a cool way. I believe in him. I think he’s a great player. I just knew that, you know what, it’s more important for us to have the best chance right now. So that was the thought process.”
The Seahawks lost against the Rams and in Smith’s first two starts — Pittsburgh and New Orleans — before soundly beating Jacksonville ahead of last week’s bye. In those three straight losses, they had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes of regulation or in overtime.
As part of his effort to “break records” with how quickly he returned, Wilson said he worked on his hand “probably 19-20 hours a day” with the help of his physical therapist, Amy Atmore. He said being “surrounded by some of the best people in the world” helped him come back sooner than expected.
Carroll said Wilson’s hand would need a couple days to heal once the pin was removed. But he was throwing less than 24 hours after it came out on Nov. 1 as Seattle entered its bye week.
“We never stopped doing the work,” he said. “I was always lifting. I was always moving. I was always running. I was always preparing my mind. I was visualizing every rep, every defender, where people would be and everything else.”
That mental work included Wilson running mock 2-minute drives before the games he missed — pretending to call and change plays at the line of scrimmage, rolling out and throwing without a ball as he worked his way up and down the field.
“That was a big part for me because I’ve always believed that if you want to be great at anything, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter what’s surrounding you, you have to do what it takes to be great,” he said. “I think a lot of people choose not to because it’s the easy way out, it’s the easy way around it. It may not be the cool thing or it may not be this and that. But when you love winning and the process of it all, you’ll do whatever it takes. I love the process.”
Wilson initially threw with a glove on his right hand once his pin came out. He hasn’t needed once since but said he may have to wear one Sunday depending on the weather in Green Bay. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the 30s.
“Hand feels great, it feels strong,” he said. “… I’m ready. I’m ready to play and ready to help us win, do whatever it takes.”