So which is it? Has the Seattle Seahawks locker room replaced Disneyland as "the happiest place on Earth," or did an ESPN article last week expose turmoil around Puget Sound by suggesting Russell Wilson needs bodyguards to protect himself from his teammates?
Something weird is happening here.
First, defensive end Michael Bennett said neither he nor anybody else on the Seahawks has issues with Wilson. Then center Justin Britt agreed. There also was cornerback Richard Sherman tweeting that the ESPN piece was "nonsense" regarding its claim that he stands near the front of the line of Seahawks players wishing to throw jabs and hooks at their three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has evolved into a 5-foot-11 punching bag.
I'm guessing the ESPN article is true, but I can't think of a legitimate reason for this epidemic of Wilson bashers. Then again, I'm biased. One of the most striking moments of courage wrapped inside of grace and professionalism I've seen during my nearly 40 years as a professional sports journalist involved Wilson. It turned me into an eternal fan of the guy. As for his critics, not so much, especially if they include his teammates, because many of them were beneficiaries of The Moment I just mentioned. I'll discuss later, but consider this for now: Even beyond Seahawks players who may or may not dislike Wilson, he is the unlikeliest of villains in an unofficial reality show.
In case you've missed a few episodes, pop star Ciara was engaged to rapper Future, and they had a son three years ago. They named him, well, um, Future. Now he goes by Baby Future. Soon after his birth, the couple broke up, and months later, Ciara began dating Wilson, and they were married last summer. Their daughter named Sienna was born in April, which means the Wilson household consists of Russell, Ciara, Baby Future and Sienna. Anyway, Future fans lost their minds on Twitter last year after Baby Future had the audacity to refer to Wilson as "Papa." They howled more last week after Wilson tweeted his love for Baby Future on his stepson's birthday.
The smile you make when you turn 3!- Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 19, 2017
I Love You!
Love, Papa Russ. pic.twitter.com/cqeb2lhV0j
There was also a video posted on social media during Memorial Day weekend showing Wilson teaching Baby Future how to run the bases after knocking a baseball from a tee.
Wilson bashers need to get a life. Nobody in the NFL is a better face of his franchise than Wilson, a devout Christian who was a star football, baseball and basketball player at his high school in Richmond, Va., and he was class president his senior year. He has model Ciara as his wife, and courtesy of his spiritual beliefs, he told her from the start of their relationship that they would remain celibate until they're wedding day. He does a slew of commercials for famous companies. You name a late-night television show, and he likely has graced it with his easy smile before he delivers the cerebral answers you'd expect from a guy whose father was a lawyer, paternal grandfather was a college president and maternal grandfather was an accomplished artist. He's also a philanthropist. Throughout his five years of turning the Seahawks into one of the league's most significant teams, he has been a frequent visitor to children and military hospitals.
What am I missing here? Yep, a bunch of envious folks, because they're not Russell Wilson. Here's another thing: Despite his smallish frame, he played every game last season with constant pain after he damaged his ankle in the opener and his knee two weeks after that. He remained the efficient scrambler he has been since he was a third-round pick for the Seahawks in 2012 out of Wisconsin, and he took them to the postseason with a 10-5-1 record.
Wilson also has a Super Bowl ring. After the 2013 season, he took the Seahawks to a 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos, and he brought them back to the NFL's ultimate game the following year (he now has eight playoff victories in just five seasons).
Which brings us to The Moment.
No question, much of this anti-Wilson stuff among his teammates goes back three Super Bowls ago, when I gasped near the end of that game like everybody else inside of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Seconds after Marshawn Lynch didn't get the ball just inches from the goal line along the way to Wilson throwing a game-winning interception to the New England Patriots, I rushed from the press box to the Seahawks locker room, and I tweeted the following along the way.
Seattle just made the WORST offensive play call in the history of the Super Bowl. NOTHING ever will top that. NOTHING. NOTHING!!!!- Terence Moore (@TMooreSports) February 2, 2015
After I reached the door of the Seahawks locker room, I was stunned. Out of the thousands of reporters covering that Super Bowl, maybe seven or eight of us were there. The majority of the media went to the Patriots locker room or waited for the NFL communication staff to bring a few Seattle players to an interview area on the other side of the stadium after a cooling off period. Faster than I could have possibly imagined, the door opened to the Seahawks locker room, and I've never seen NFL players more devastated. Most players were present, but one was noticeably missing -- Lynch. From their lockers, guys stared into space for the longest time when they weren't burying their heads in their hands. Their body language suggested to others, "Don't you DARE come near me."
Safety Earl Thomas and Sherman took it the hardest, which probably explains why that ESPN article was mostly about how Sherman's long-time problems with Russell and his mostly pristine image intensified after that interception. As Thomas and Sherman sat there, they barely moved a finger or a toe during the entire time the locker room was open to the media.
Finally, after five, 10 or even more minutes than that, linebacker Bruce Irvin raised his head and talked. Well, he tried. He kept sighing between telling us, "Man, this is tough."
Others spoke here and there, but not for long.
Then, across the way, Wilson walked into what had become the local morgue after he returned from his turn on the podium in the interview room. With no television cameras in sight and the number of journalists down to four, he had the look of a minister seeking to comfort a grieving family. He slowly moved around the room to huddle with each of his teammates at their locker. His teammates did more listening than speaking to the man who had to hurt more than anybody on that side of Arizona. They nodded after he ended each session with everything from a fist bump to a pat on the leg. Later, he spoke briefly to us, and none of his answers hinted of somebody into excuses or sympathy. He eventually hugged Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, which is interesting in hindsight. That ESPN article also said Carroll was ridiculed in private by some players for not holding Wilson responsible in general. You know, whatever that means.
"I think Pete does a fantastic job of handling different individuals differently," Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin told a Seattle radio station Tuesday with his team starting their offseason conditioning program this week. "We all have our different personalities. We all act different ways. And Pete does a fantastic job of accommodating those personalities. He's done it with me. He's done it with Russ, with [Sherman], with [Lynch], with all of us. And he does a great job at it."
The whole thing makes sense to me.
It also should for everybody on the Seahawks.
I can't speak for Future fans.