RENTON — The popular image of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is that of a football savant who lives, eats and breathes the game 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Wilson doesn’t argue, but puts up a mild protest.
“I did take a couple of weeks off (after the season),” he said Monday, before smiling and adding: “which is kind of rare.”
He had a good reason: his marriage to wife Ashton and subsequent honeymoon, conveniently planned for a few days after the Super Bowl.
“Just in case,” Wilson said.
Wilson won’t be making any pre-Super Bowl plans this year, either, with the Seahawks entering a 2013 season heavy with expectations.
Wilson’s emergence last year, from third-round pick to budding superstar, is a big reason the Seahawks are expected to make a long playoff run, especially if he can avoid a sophomore slump and build on where he left off in 2012.
Coach Pete Carroll is betting on it.
Asked after the first organized training activity of the offseason on Monday how much more advanced Wilson is than a year ago, Carroll said “there is no way of even calculating that.”
Carroll referred to Wilson’s “awareness and his sense of the finest details” as well as his willingness and improved ability in throwing certain passes he might have avoided last season.
“We jumped offsides today, and he’s working on hard counts on the third play of (a team practice session),” Carroll said. “He didn’t know what a hard count was last year at this time. So it’s just really hard to equate what it is because there is so much and he has applied himself so much and he has taken an extraordinary amount of information and he is processing.
“He threw a couple balls today (Monday), things that we have talked about over the offseason that he would like to take a shot at today, and he did it to see what would happen with full awareness of why he was doing it and all. ...
“So we are just a million miles ahead of where we were. He is the kind of player who affects other guys, he will affect everyone around him, and hopefully that will help everybody play better and faster.”
One other obvious difference is that Wilson is the acknowledged leader of not only the offense, but the entire team. A year ago at this point, he was still locked in a quarterback battle.
“It will be drastically different in that the leadership role is already established,” Wilson said. “And then just the reps. Last year I was splitting a third of the reps all the way through training camp pretty much, so that will give me a boost and get me ready for the season. ...
“Last year I gained so much experience as the year went on. My goal was to continue to progress. That was my goal last year and it’s my goal this year, to continue to progress from the first game to the last game we have.”
One major difference in Wilson’s game as 2012 developed was the team’s willingness to let him use his legs.
ESPN recently detailed that Seattle ran 51 read-option plays — plays in which the QB has the choice to hand off or run — in the final six weeks of the season, most in the NFL. Seattle ran another 23 read-option plays — designed to take advantage of Wilson’s mobility and instincts — in its two playoff games.
Such plays can put a lot of stress on a quarterback’s legs. Wilson is attempting to head off any worries about the potential added workload to his legs, though, saying his offseason conditioning emphasis has been to strengthen his lower body.
“I worked on my legs a lot more,” he said. “Kind of the main thing I have been working on in terms of squatting a lot more and doing a lot of movement stuff with my feet. So just having that strong base and putting on a couple pounds here and there in the legs, I think it helps.”
After playing at 210 pounds last season, he said he hopes to be at 214 or 215 this year.
All the better to also carry the weight of expectations that will follow the Seahawks around this season. Wilson, however, is in full-veteran mode when it comes to that topic.
“We just have to get ready and not worry about it,” he said. “Ignore the noise. Everybody is going to talk about how good we are supposed to be, how great we are supposed to be, Super Bowl. You can’t pay attention to that. The biggest thing is to focus on the now, focus on the moment.”