RENTON, Wash. – Russell Wilson turned 31 Friday, and if he’s officially never been older he also says he can’t imagine he’s ever felt better.
“I feel young, younger than ever,” he said. “Forever young, I guess Jay-Z used to say. I feel good. I feel mature. I feel young.”
So good that he used the occasion – well, with some prodding from the assembled media members – to reiterate his desire to play in the NFL until he is 45.
He’s in the middle of his eighth season as quarterback of the Seahawks. Playing until he is 45 would mean playing at least 22 years overall and through the 2033 season (he’s under contract through the 2023 season, which will end when he’s 35 years old, with a salary that will average $35 million a year from 2020-23).
And if he were really able to play until he is 45 and start games, he would set some NFL history as the oldest starting quarterback. Steve DeBerg, Warren Moon and Vinnie Testaverde each started games at 44 years old.
“I’ve always wanted to go for 45,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of just longevity playing. I think, for me, every year is you’re invested to your body. You’re invested into your mind, your soul, everything else. The game. As you go, you get even stronger and you get even better I feel like. Even more wisdom. I think that helps a lot.”
Wilson clarified that when he first entered the NFL in 2012 his goal was to play until he was 40. He then changed that slightly to 43, which would give him 20 seasons in the league.
Now, seeing Tom Brady continue to play at the age of 42, Wilson is using his same “Why not us?” ideal to move his target just a little bit more.
“I think that 20 years (as an NFL quarterback) is kind of in my head, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’ve got a long ways to go. I’m just eight years in. I feel better than ever.
“That’s kind of where it started for me. Then, obviously seeing Tom do it and I’ve gotten to know Tom over the past several years and stuff like that. Just talking to him a little bit and seeing where he’s at and everything else. I think for me, it’s realistic. I feel great.”
But hey, why stop there?
If Wilson really wants to get ambitious, he could try to top George Blanda, who played until he was 48. Blanda was largely a kicker at the end of his NFL career, but he threw three passes in the final game in which he played when he was 48 years and 95 days old, according to ProFootballReference.com.
For now, Wilson is willing to set 45 as a goal.
“I just think that’s what I feel like I can do,” he said. “I feel like in my eighth season, I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel like I haven’t done anything yet. That’s a good feeling.”
Wilson also said he feels as if he’s improved every year, a feeling that this year can be validated by his stats – he has a 112.1 passer rating that would be a career high for a season, with 24 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
At some point, the passage of time will inevitably catch up to Wilson some in the physical department.
But for now, what Wilson said he adds with each season is added knowledge of the game and an ability to use it on the field to get the team into the best possible play on every snap.
“I think being able to change plays and call different stuff at the line over the past several years, I’ve been able to grow in that and do that,” he said. “I’ve always done 2-minute stuff and just go after it. Go after it and done that. Also, just to be able to put us in any formation in any situation, no matter what it is. Whether it’s 13 personnel and lot of tight ends in the game (which is one back, one receiver and one tight end). If we’ve got a fullback in the game, if it’s all wide-outs. Whatever. We can get to a great play I feel like. I think that’s been the biggest thing. And trying to be a guru of the game. You just want to be a guru of the game and use all your talent, use all your experience.”
Among those who’ve noticed Wilson’s improvement in orchestrating the game at the line of scrimmage is Mike Zimmer, the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, the Seahawks’ opponents Monday night.
“I see him making a lot more checks and things with the receivers,” Zimmer said. “I think he feels confident with all these guys. He’s played very, very confident. I think he really likes how the offensive line is playing as well. He’s waiting and buys time to find guys, they end up getting open.”
As for Wilson, he intends to keep his playing window open for as long as he possibly can.
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