Russell Wilson approached a microphone for the first time in months Thursday, his first appearance on record since he'd started a storm of rumblings swirling around his discontent.
Wilson wanted to get hit less, it began, before it eventually devolved into the floating of a list of teams Wilson wouldn't mind being traded to -- you know, if he were traded. At one point, Chicago Bears fans were on the edge of their seats, believing Wilson would soon be headed to the Windy City.
Ultimately, Wilson stayed in Seattle, where he and the Seahawks organization found a way to land on the same page once again and move forward as a unit. But that happy ending doesn't mean he wasn't about to be peppered with questions regarding the drama.
"I did not request a trade. I've always wanted to play here," Wilson said. "The reality is, I think calls were getting thrown around and this and that, and I think that's just the reality, but at the end of the day the real reality is that I'm here, and I'm here to win, and I'm here to win it all."
The target is set as high as possible for the Seahawks, who have been a near-perennial contender for much of the last decade. Since Wilson ascended to his role of star quarterback, it's always been the expectation, which made the threat of his potential departure that much more worrisome -- and the reported quartet of possible destinations that much more excited about the possibilities.
Wilson deftly ducked and dodged questions about that group of teams when pressed on the matter, bobbing and weaving his way through the topic by repeating he did not request a trade and leaning on the existence of his no-trade clause for justification.
"There was a lot of people, there was a whole thing saying I requested a trade, and that's just not true," Wilson said. "I didn't request a trade. Everything kind of started from there. Obviously, tons of teams were calling and I think that the reality was I didn't want to go anywhere else, I wanted to play in Seattle. But if I had to go somewhere, these are the teams I would go to or consider. At the end of the day I have a no-trade clause, right?"
Sure, he has a no-trade clause, one that he easily could have waived had the Seahawks come to an agreement with a team located in one of his supposed preferred destinations. That made his assortment of answers insufficient for some participating in the call, and one question directly asked Wilson why he didn't just take it upon himself to end the rampant speculation by simply denying that there was an issue. Instead, Wilson remained mum as Seahawks leadership convened within their facility to discuss the issue at hand.
"Sometimes things are family matters, not everybody else is a part of it at the time," Wilson explained. "The reality is, is that there were calls going around that I could have possibly been traded. So I think the reality is, is that we had to have a lot of conversations. We had some great ones along the way. It made our relationship stronger, really -- me and Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider). ... The greatest thing about it all is that I'm here. I'm ready to roll. I'm more focused than ever. Like I said earlier, I feel faster, I feel stronger, I feel smarter, better than ever. The reality is I feel more dangerous than ever. I feel like I can do everything we want to do, and I'm excited about that opportunity. You know what heals all things? Winning."
Time also heals all, it seems, as does keeping some things in house. The Seahawks won the dramatic war with this strategy, but there's still the matter of putting intentions into practice. Seattle acquired veteran guard Gabe Jackson to beef up its offensive line, and Wilson sounded very optimistic about his team's chances, even after the Seahawks limped to their unceremonious exit in the postseason, leaving Wilson to watch the Super Bowl from a suite instead of playing in it.
That image drove many to believe it was a driving force behind Wilson's frustration and eventual decision to voice his issues publicly. Ever the public relations master, Wilson downplayed the impact of it Thursday.
"I think it got a little blown out of proportion, unfortunately. When I'm sitting at the Super Bowl and watching the Super Bowl, I should be pissed off, right?" Wilson said. "At the end of the day you shouldn't be wanting to sit there and watch the game and want to be there and want to play, especially when you've played in it twice. It's one those things, like, man, we got to get back here. But I think that wasn't really frustration. I think that was more so having a conversation. And I think it got a little bit blown out of proportion. I don't remember how it all went, but I do remember me saying I got to do better, too."
The Seahawks are poised to again contend for the NFC West and perhaps more in 2021, provided they can jumpstart an offense that struggled down the stretch. Also vital to Seattle's success is protecting Wilson, a task that isn't as simple as it seems when considering part of Wilson's ability to produce involves extending the play, giving rushers more time to get after him.
We'll see if its changes (which also include a switch to Shane Waldron at offensive coordinator) pay off. But Seahawks fans are hoping the spring's avalanche of speculation was a one-time thing, not an annual occurrence.
Wilson seems to be hoping the same, and that his time in Seattle isn't near its end.
"I think anytime in sports, obviously things can change. That's just the reality. Everybody knows that," Wilson said. "But I think that for me, my heart of hearts, I love this city, I love this place, I love everything about it. ... And ultimately I love the fans. I love my teammates, I love this coaching staff. I love this building. Every time I come up here I get excited just to get ready to go again. Every morning I wake up, I wake up to win, and I wake up to win another Super Bowl for the Seattle Seahawks. That's my mission.
"In my mind, one of my gifts in my space is to be able to compartmentalize. ... My mind is so focused on us doing it, doing it again, for the city, and us winning it all. ... I know we can do it again. And so for me, personally, I hope I play my whole career here. That's my mission, that's my goal."
The mission resumes this summer. Perhaps by then we'll be able to leave this matter in the offseason.