RENTON, WA - When Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson underwent surgery to repair his injured right middle finger on October 8, initial projections pointed towards him missing six to eight weeks.
But on Monday, only four weeks after the operation and one week after having the pin removed from the finger, Wilson took snaps under center and threw passes to receivers on the practice field. After taking another monumental step in his recovery process, the veteran quarterback intends to return to the starting lineup for Seattle when the team travels to Green Bay for a date at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"This is a remarkable story of recovery," coach Pete Carroll said following Monday's practice. "The guy set his intent that he was going to do this and pull it off and he is way, way ahead of schedule. We just came off of the practice field and he was throwing the ball all over the place. He did really well for his first time out in a limited number of plays. We knew that Russ was going to go for it, but we didn’t know if his body would respond, but it did."
Midway through the third quarter against the Rams in Week 5, Wilson's throwing hand struck defensive tackle Aaron Donald's arm and after the play, cameras showed the tip of his right middle finger bent awkwardly. He came back in for an additional series after suffering the injury, but he couldn't properly grip the football and eventually was replaced by backup Geno Smith.
Less than 24 hours later, Dr. Steve Shin operated on Wilson, repairing an extensor tendon rupture and fracture-dislocation of his proximal interphalangeal joint. On Monday, through a statement released by the Seahawks, the renowned hand surgeon indicated he had never "seen such a severe injury to the throwing hand of an NFL quarterback."
However, Shin hadn't worked with an athlete and competitor like Wilson, whose work ethic, determination, and commitment to his craft are unrivaled. The veteran signal caller immediately went into attack mode with his post-operative rehabilitation process, doing everything in his power to give himself a chance to return to action after Seattle's Week 9 bye.
When he initially couldn't do anything with his surgically repaired finger, Wilson stayed heavily involved in the game-planning process, providing support for Smith as he made his first starts since 2017. Keeping himself mentally prepared, he could be seen barking out calls and running no-huddle drills by himself in pre-game warmups. He also remained a captain, taking the field for coin tosses.
Then, once his pin was finally removed last week, Wilson wasted little time getting back into football-related activities, posting video of him working out and slinging the pigskin at his personal facility one day later. One day later, he advanced to throwing longer passes on his practice field in southern California.
Sure enough, after missing the past three games on injured reserve - the first three games he had missed in his entire 10-year career, Wilson was designated to return to practice on Monday, once again blowing projected timelines out of the water.
"His team that worked with him and helped him throughout did a remarkable job," Carroll added. "So we'll just go one day at a time and see how it goes. I know he's thrilled to be back, everybody's excited to see him back out here. It's an amazing accomplishment to be back. Just throwing like he just did on the practice field is a great achievement."
While Carroll wasn't ready to commit to Wilson starting in Green Bay just yet, he made it clear the quarterback didn't come back just to practice. If the Seahawks would have had a game last weekend, he would have pushed to play only a few days after having the pin removed. Assuming he responds well throughout the week, the plan remains for him to be activated and return to the lineup.
"We're going one day at a time here," Carroll said. "He's not out here to do anything but play; he's not coming back just to practice. So we'll see what happens as the week goes on - give us days to figure that out - but the intention is that if he's okay, he plays."
On Monday, Wilson wasn't wearing a glove or any protection over his surgically-repaired finger. Carroll said he discussed multiple options with the quarterback, but after throwing the ball well in his first practice, the coach doesn't believe he will need to wear anything moving forward.
As for what Carroll and his staff need to see this week from Wilson for him to start against the Packers, it all boils down to how his body responds to returning to practice. But after ramping up his throwing program last week, all signs so far indicate he will be back under center for the Seahawks at Lambeau Field this weekend, capping off a spectacular recovery from two significant injuries.
"What we just watched Russ do, to see somebody that so clearly took control of his rehab and the process and the mentality of it, this is really exciting to see," Carroll said unprompted. "There's a lot of people that are sick and hurting, coming back from stuff and all of that, it's always nice to know a story of somebody who just overcame the odds and pulled it off and was so clearly intent to do all of this. I just think it's remarkable and I hope as we follow this and Russ can find his way back to success and all that in a quick fashion, I just think it's important.
"There's a lot of hard times, a lot of people working through a lot of hard stuff; his is a really cool story, and I'm amazed but yet not surprised, and I'm really fired up about it. I'm anxious to see how this goes."