ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Russell Wilson has started 84 games at Lumen Field in Seattle, including a half dozen playoff matchups. His return Monday night with the Denver Broncos marks his first game there as a visitor.
So, he knows he'll hear the full-throated din of the Seahawks’ famed “12th man” crowd while he's trying to listen to play calls from rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett and relay them to his teammates.
What he's unsure of is whether he'll be treated with venom or veneration in his return to Seattle, where he played for a decade, leading the Seahawks to the playoffs eight times with two trips to the Super Bowl and the franchise's only championship parade.
“I know they'll be rowdy. I know they'll be excited. I know it's ‘Monday Night Football’. So, it'll be a special environment,” Wilson said Thursday. “Listen, I think that I gave my heart and soul every day, and I know nothing less. So, hopefully it'll be positive. But at the end of the day we've got a game to play.”
One thing's for sure, Wilson said: No matter how he's viewed at his homecoming, “I’ll forever have love in my heart for Seattle.”
Wilson had a record of 104-53-1 for the Seahawks, but his relationship with coach Pete Carroll soured in recent years and he was traded to Denver last March for a package of draft picks and players, including QB Drew Lock, who lost a training camp competition with Wilson's former backup, Geno Smith.
Wilson has made a point of saying nothing but positive things about his time in Seattle, but an ESPN story this week detailed the drama that led to the blockbuster trade, including juicy tidbits suggesting some in Seattle's camp felt Wilson was a declining player and was more concerned with personal accolades than winning games.
“I don't worry about all this stuff,” Wilson said. "People have opinions and thoughts and ideas and everybody has their own right to think what they want to think. You know, I know how the whole thing went and how it transpired and just the whole situation.
“At the same time, I know every second of it I enjoyed in terms of being there and just trying to give my all every day,” Wilson added. “That’s all I know. And at the end of the day, every play, every game, every situation, hurt, dinged up, highest moments, lowest moments sometimes, I gave my all and that's all I can give.”
The ESPN article noted Wilson's camp was upset when it learned the Seahawks had called the Browns before the 2018 NFL draft to discuss a trade that would have swapped Wilson for the top overall pick.
“Definitely they tried to (trade me) a couple times and tried to see what was out there,” Wilson said. "It’s part of the business and it’s part of being a professional. Upset probably is the wrong word.
“I believe in my talent and who I am, and I believe that I'm one of the best in the world. I don’t worry about anything else other than that. My focus has always been on winning.”
The Broncos gave up Lock and two starters, tight end Noah Fant and defensive end Shelby Harris, along with five draft picks, including their first- and second-rounders this year and next for Wilson and a fifth-round pick.
Last week they signed their 33-year-old QB to a five-year, $245 million extension through 2028.
General manager George Paton's trade for Wilson solved a six-year QB conundrum in Denver, where the Broncos churned through 10 different starters following Peyton Manning's retirement in 2016, including a different one in each of the past five season openers.
Wilson, who didn't take a single snap in the preseason, insists he won't get caught up in the emotions of his return to Seattle.
“At the end of the day you've still got to get prepared the way you always get prepared and when you get outside of that realm and start thinking about everything else ... you're wasting time,” Wilson said. “I don't think winners waste time on things that have nothing to do with the game.”
Relishing his reunion is something that will come down the road, Wilson added.
“There’ll be time in place to think back and reflect on it all and like I said, Seattle forever means the world to me, man,” Wilson said. “I just loved it there, you know? Like I said, I played 10 years there, it was amazing experience and I loved every second of it.”