RENTON Russell Wilson wants to play longer than Peyton Manning. Longer than Brett Favre. Heck, he wants to zero in on George Blanda.
That’s what the Seahawks’ 27-year-old quarterback indicated Wednesday when he said his long-term goal was to play “15-plus more years” in the NFL.
Seattle’s $87.6 million franchise cornerstone will be entering his fifth season this fall. If he reaches his goal, he’d be at least 42 years old with 20-plus seasons in the league in 2031.
Wilson stated his aim Wednesday following the Seahawks’ second of three mandatory-minicamp practices. He was answering my question on why he’s been working so much on increasing his leg strength the last two offseasons.
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Wilson said he’s learned over his first four seasons leg strength is the key not only his throwing but staying elusive to pass rushers -- and thus healthy. 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. That’s just one of my goals,” he said of 20-plus years as an NFL quarterback.
As usual with Wilson, that’s no small goal. The only quarterback to start two Super Bowls in the first three seasons of a career, the winningest QB over the first three years of an NFL career, would join elite company should he play for at least 20 years.
Only five QBs have done it in the league. Vinny Testaverde (1987-2007) and Steve DeBerg (1978-98) played 21 seasons, though not entirely as starters for what by the end became journeyman careers. Favre retired in 2010 after 20 years and 302 regular-season games played -- and all of those years (except in 1991 when he was a rookie backup for Atlanta) were as a starter.
Blanda is the only QB to play in more games than Favre, 340, over a 26-year career. But 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.
“Leg strength is a huge part 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.”
He says all the work he’s done the last two offseasons on his legs is paying off.
“I feel great,” he said. “I feel like I’m 18 years old.”