Russell Wilson has spent this spring and last describing how fiendishly he’s worked on increasing his strength.
Not in his throwing arm. In his legs.
Why? He sees leg strength as the key to longevity. And the Seahawks’ 27-year-old quarterback wants to play longer than Peyton Manning. Longer than Brett Favre.
Heck, he wants to zero in on George Blanda.
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That’s what Seattle’s $87.6 million franchise cornerstone indicated Wednesday when he said his long-term goal was to play “15-plus more years” in the NFL.
Wilson will be entering his fifth season this fall. If he reaches his goal, he’d be at least 42 with 20-plus seasons in the league by 2031.
He stated this aim following the Seahawks’ second of three practices in their only mandatory minicamp this offseason. Wilson said he’s learned over his first four seasons that leg strength is the key not only to his throwing, but to staying elusive to pass rushers — and, thus, staying healthy.
It’s working: He’s participated in every practice and game since Seattle made him its starter from the opener of his rookie season in 2012.
“That’s just my focus, long-term focus. I am a big goal person, so that is just one of my goals,” he said of seeking to endure as an NFL quarterback for 20 or more years.
As usual with Wilson, that’s no small goal. The only quarterback to start two Super Bowls in his first three seasons, and the winningest quarterback over the first three years of an NFL career, would join elite company should he play for at least 20 years.
Only five quarterbacks have done it in the league. Vinny Testaverde (1987-2007) and Steve DeBerg (1978-98) played 21 NFL seasons, though not entirely as starters in what by their conclusions became journeyman careers.
Favre retired in 2010 after 20 years and 302 regular-season games played — and all of those years were as a starter (except in 1991 when he was a rookie backup for Atlanta).
Blanda is the only quarterback to play in more games than Favre, 340 over a 26-year career. But in the last nine of those seasons Blanda was primarily a kicker with Oakland. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Earl Morrall (1956-76) is the only other quarterback to play at least 20 seasons in the NFL, but he started two or fewer games in six of his final eight seasons before retiring.
Manning played 18 seasons and 266 regular-season games. He retired soon after he led Denver to win Super Bowl 50 in February.
That was about the time Wilson resumed focusing on leg workouts in Southern California with his trainers Ryan Flaherty and Gunnar Peterson.
“Leg strength is a huge part of throwing,” Wilson said. “I’ve really started to figure that out the more I’ve figured out my body and how to play for a long time; you know, I want to play for 15-plus more years.
“A big part of that is taking care of my legs. That’s getting stronger, but also getting more flexible and more mobile. That’s a big part of it, especially with the way I play. I want to get away from guys, but also be efficient and move efficiency inside the pocket and all that. A lot of that is leg strength.”
Wilson says all the work he’s done in the last two offseasons on his legs is paying off.
“You know, I feel great,” he said. “Whenever somebody asks me how I feel, I say: ‘I feel like I am 18.’ ”
That’s not all that Wilson’s feeling bullish about this spring, five months after he almost rallied the Seahawks from a 31-0 hole at Carolina in a 31-24 loss to the eventual NFC-champion Panthers in the divisional playoffs.
In 2015, Wilson became the first Seahawks quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. He did it despite an offensive line that figured in him getting sacked 31 times in his first seven games — and forcing him to run for his life all fall and into the winter.
That line could have five new starters, none of them proven in their spots. Yet Wilson says this is perhaps the best offseason the Seahawks have had in his career.
“It feels great. For minicamp we are as good as it can get,” he said. “I think this is the best it has been in four or five years — fifth year going on for me — but it has just been exciting. We are practicing really well. The rookies look really professional. … They are really in tune with it.
“Once you have kind of been here for a while, you kind of know. We know how we want to approach practice. We know how we want to take advantage of every opportunity that we have had. We also know what it takes to win a lot of games. For us, the leaders on the team or the veterans on the team, we are trying to show the younger guys, and they are coming along right away.
“I can definitely say we are making a lot of improvements. We are coming a long way.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle