RENTON, Wash. (AP) — K.J. Wright might be one of the biggest surprises in Seattle’s starting lineup for Sunday’s opener against Atlanta, which is saying something considering he’s currently the longest-tenured Seahawks player and about to begin his 10th NFL season.
But this was an offseason of challenges for Wright.
At 31 years old and entering the final year of a two-year contract and costing $10 million against the salary cap, the Seahawks could have decided to move on from Wright.
On top of that, Wright had shoulder surgery during the offseason that initially created doubts about whether he’d be ready for the start of the year.
And the capper: the Seahawks actually drafted in the first-round in April and selected what appeared to be Wright’s heir apparent in linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
Despite that, Wright is still expected to be in his normal spot alongside Bobby Wagner starting at weakside linebacker.
“I just knew that when I am healthy, I’m one of the best,” Wright said. “And so when they (drafted Brooks) that’s the decision the organization wanted to go in, that was their choice. But I know that when I’m on the field, I got to do my thing as usual.”
Wright is one of just a handful of players still around Seattle's roster from its Super Bowl winning team in 2013. He’s been a stalwart through all the various versions of Seattle’s defense and filled multiple linebacker roles during his time.
But recent years have been filled with questions about how much longer he might be part of Seattle’s plans. He was a free agent after the 2018 season — a season when he was limited to just five games due to injuries — and briefly considered leaving before being offered the chance to return on a two-year deal.
Wright showed Seattle made the right move in bringing him back. His 2019 season was full of career bests — 132 tackles, three interceptions and 11 passes defensed — although the defense as a whole took a step back.
“K.J. is just a dream to coach. He’s been such a great team guy, such a consistently competitive guy, such a smart player. And he’s so gracious with other players, the younger guys, the way he mentors them along,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s tough, he’s physical and he had arguably his best year last year. ... Really, he’s been one of my all-time favorites.”
Even after having such a productive season, the questions about whether Wright would be in Seattle for his 10th year began immediately. They were mostly due to the large salary cap number attached to his contract, but became amplified when it was learned he had shoulder surgery.
Wright said he should have undergone the surgery immediately after the season but was stubborn and waited until March. The initial prognosis had Wright likely missing the first month of the season. The rehab timeline may have also played into the decision to draft Brooks.
But Wright was diligent in his rehab even while NFL facilities were shut down. When Seattle reported for its physicals, Wright was cleared for immediate participation. While there weren’t preseason games, Wright’s performance during training camp gave no indications he’s slowing down.
“Just being on this team is special because obviously we know it’s not like this everywhere. I’ve heard some horror stories of other teams and for me to be here for 10 years and to be happy, to be playing and balling, I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful,” Wright said. “So we still got work to do. Year 10, we got to make this the best out of all of them.”
NOTES: Carroll said Friday that special teams coordinator Brian Schneider has left the team indefinitely for personal reasons but did not elaborate. Larry Izzo will take over. ... OL Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) is the only player listed as out for Sunday. WR Phillip Dorsett (foot) is questionable.
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