RENTON, WA - After Russell Wilson underwent surgery on his right middle finger during a loss to the Rams on October 8, doctors initially gave him a 6-8 week recovery timeline before he would return to action.
But after not missing a single game in his first nine-plus seasons in the NFL, that wasn't going to cut it for one of the NFL's most intense competitors. Once the rehabilitation process began, Wilson began working feverishly for as many as 19-20 hours per day with physical therapist Amy Atmore with one mission in mind: trying to break records.
"For me, my whole mindset was to cut the time in half, and that's kind of what my mindset has been since the moment it happened," Wilson told reporters on Thursday, crediting Atmore, his hand specialist, and Dr. Steve Shin for the work they did helping him recover quickly. "I think for me, I never lost confidence in where I was going to go and how it's going to get done, so throughout the whole process, I kind of knew in my head... this is where my goal is."
Considering the severity of his injuries, Wilson inevitably was going to miss the first games of his career. That was unavoidable.
After his hand struck Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald while following through on a pass, he initially thought he only dislocated the finger. But on the sidelines, trainers were unable to reset the finger back into place due to other injuries, including a ruptured tendon and two fractures. He went back into the game for one more possession before giving way to Geno Smith, believing the backup gave the Seahawks the best chance to win the game, and underwent what he called a "complex" surgery the next day.
Still, Wilson wasn't about to settle for missing as many as five or six games. One of the most relentless workers at mastering his craft in all of professional sports, he's simply not programmed that way.
"I wasn't gonna take 6-8 [weeks]. That wasn't on my mind," Wilson laughed.
Though he couldn't throw a football with a pin inserted into his surgically-repaired finger, Wilson found other ways to stay mentally prepared while the injury healed and he worked with his training team to accelerate that process. During the week, he kept on top of things by absorbing every single rep even if he couldn't practice. He remained active in game planning and provided council for Smith.
Then on game day, Wilson could be seen on the field barking out calls and running no-huddle drills by himself during warmups. He remained a captain, taking the field for coin tosses to stay involved. He tried to make the most of seeing the game from a different perspective on the sidelines, watching what defenses were trying to do.
After missing the required three games on injured reserve, Wilson wasn't sure when he would get his pin out. But after Shin re-examined his finger, the pin was officially removed on November 1, a little over three weeks after his surgery. With Seattle entering a bye week, the news couldn't have come at a better time.
"The bye week was just God's perfect timing, just for me to be able to go into a shell," Wilson remarked. "Everything was going at an exponential rate because of the treatment and other things we were doing."
Though Wilson admitted he didn't expect to throw the football for a few days after the pin was removed, just like the rest of his rehab process, he was well ahead of schedule. The very next day, he was already slinging the pigskin at his personal facility in California while partaking in other football-related activities and by Monday, the Seahawks designated him for return from injured reserve.
While Wilson hasn't been activated to the 53-man roster yet and coach Pete Carroll hasn't verbally committed to him starting on Sunday, all signs point to the star signal caller returning to action against the Packers. With his remarkable recovery approaching the finish line, he believes his finger is almost completely healed.
"I feel great. I feel really close. I'm not 100 percent yet but I'm pretty dang close," Wilson said. "I don't need to wear a glove. The hand feels strong."
Following a disappointing 3-5 start that included the team's first three-game losing streak since 2011, the Seahawks currently are tied for last place in the NFC West. But despite the poor start, they remain only one game out of the final wild card spot in the NFC and with Wilson's return, players and coaches alike believe they can make a playoff run in the second half.
After beating his own goal on a personal level and exceeding all expectations recovering from a major injury, the eight-time Pro Bowler has his sights set on vaulting Seattle back into contention over the final two months.
"It was definitely a challenge. I think adversity brings the best out of you. I think for me, I definitely went through some adverse times with the hand and everything else. Difficult moment, but at the same time... I've been blessed to play in all the games I've been able to play and all the things I've been able to do so far in this league. I feel like it's a new beginning, I feel like it's a new start, and I feel like it's time to get going again all over again."