K.J. Wright: It’s playing for the Seahawks, or retiring from playing in the NFL

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It’s the Seahawks or no one for K.J. Wright.

Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning and Pro Bowl linebacker for a decade told SiriusXM radio Tuesday night if the Seahawks don’t offer him a contract and playing role he’d accept for 2022, he’ll retire after 11 NFL seasons.

“I mean, I love ball, but I’m not willing to pick up and leave my family like I did last year,” Wright, who played for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021, said on SiriusXM’s “I Am Athlete Tonight” show. “Because my family had to stay back. They didn’t come with me to Vegas. I’m not doing that again.

“And so I think it’s pretty well known where I stand at, how I want to end my career, going into my 12th season.

“If it’s not in Seattle, then I’ll be all good.”

Co-host Leger Douzable followed up by asking: “So you’re saying if it doesn’t happen for the Seattle Seahawks year 12 for K.J. Wright, you’re fine with walking off into the sunset?”

“It’ll hurt. I know that walking away from the game will be, you know, that that’s hard to do,” Wright, a husband and father who turns 33 next month, said. “But they (the Seahawks) know where I stand. They know where I stand.

“But I love my family more than I love football. So I’m not willing to just up and go to a team mid-season for five months. I got three kids and I love them way more than just up and leaving them to play some ball.

“So we’ll see. Seattle knows my heart. It only makes sense for me to go back. And so we’ll see what they end up doing.”

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks with outside linebacker K.J. Wright during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks with outside linebacker K.J. Wright during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Seahawks enter training camp that begins July 27 set at linebacker — and with a defense changed since Wright last played in it.

Seattle replaced Wright with 2020 first-round draft choice Jordyn Brooks last season; that’s why the team did not offer Wright another contract following his strong 2020 season. Brooks played Wright’s weakside-linebacker spot in coach Pete Carroll’s 4-3 defense, and broke Bobby Wagner’s Seahawks record for tackles in a season.

Wagner is gone, released this past spring. The All-Pro middle linebacker and former Seahawks captain signed with the Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams, Seattle’s division rival.

Seattle’s best known defensive players stretch together Thursday. From left, Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. The Seattle Seahawks practiced Thursday, August 13, 2020 at the VMAC in Renton, WA.
Seattle’s best known defensive players stretch together Thursday. From left, Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. The Seattle Seahawks practiced Thursday, August 13, 2020 at the VMAC in Renton, WA.

And Carroll has changed Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks have fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., Wright’s position coach and coordinator for most of his decade with the team. Carroll replaced Norton with Clint Hurtt, promoted from defensive line coach.

Carroll and Hurtt are installing more of a 3-4 system with one more linebacker. Brooks and Cody Barton are the inside linebackers. Darrell Taylor, coming off a 6 1/2-sack season, has one outside-linebacker spot. Rookie Boye Mafe, the second-round pick from Minnesota this spring, has impressed Carroll in offseason practices. Mafe is poised for a large role as another pass rusher and outside linebacker.

Wright is unlikely to be OK with the near-minimum contract the Seahawks might be inclined to offer, if they were to offer one at all. And he’s unlikely to be content backing up the man who replaced him, the 24-year-old Brooks, inside or playing behind relative kids Taylor and Mafe or on special teams, either.

Wright has been around the Seahawks this offseason. He joked with older players on the sidelines during the team’s minicamp this month.

As Wright told SiriusXM Tuesday, he’s made it clear he wants to play again for the Seahawks — and only for them.

Asked about that last month, Carroll said: “I love K.J. I’ve already talked to him about stuff for the future and all that.

“I did hear that he talked about playing, and we’ve already talked about that.”

A league source with knowledge of those talks has told The News Tribune they were more about a role as a consultant or possibly a coach than as a player.

Wright isn’t interested much in becoming a full-time coach for the team, as former defensive back DeShawn Shead has. Not at this point in Wright’s young kids’ lives, anyway.

Seattle Seahawks’ K.J. Wright runs with the ball after recovering a Minnesota Vikings fumble during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Seahawks’ K.J. Wright runs with the ball after recovering a Minnesota Vikings fumble during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SiriusXM’s hosts couldn’t resist asking Wright about the Seahawks’ overriding issue since their trade of his former quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver in March.

“Let’s say you go back to Seattle this year, right? Who would you want under center?” co-host Brandon Flowers asked Wright.

“I’ll tell you not Baker Mayfield. Not Drew Lock. We ain’t gonna play those games,” Wright said.

“I’m team Geno (Smith), all day. ...

“Just trust him. Just trust Geno. And what I said was, whoever you decide to be your starting quarterback, the other guy has got to leave. You cannot have both those guys in the building throughout the season. ‘Cause what’s gonna happen? Let’s say game three or four they’re not playing as well. What are the fans gonna do?: ‘Put the backup in!’

“And so to hell with all that. Whoever’s the starting quarterback, the other guy, you gotta trade him or cut him.”