RENTON, Wash. - Plenty of times last season K.J. Wright didn't believe he would remain with the Seahawks beyond 2018. He had plenty of reasons to doubt his future.
A knee injury led to surgery that limited him to five games and 23 tackles. Also, he had one year remaining on his contract and had reached age 29 with eight body-crushing seasons under his belt.
"All those signs say, 'thank you for your services, but we have to move on,'" Wright said today following a voluntary offseason training activity at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Yet, here Wright remains in a Seahawks uniform for a ninth season, longer than any other man on the team, a fact that prompted a reporter to refer to him as the "old guy" of the team.
"Aw," Wright responded with a laugh as he took two steps away from the microphone. "Now I'm going to walk off."
He didn't. He remained and said that having put in more time with the Seahawks than anyone else remaining is "fun" for him.
"Someone told me yesterday – longest tenured Seahawk – which is a blessing and an honor just to be in one program your whole career and it’s fun being in this position," he said. "It’s more of a mentoring role in this phase and when training camp comes, I’ll be out there hustling and bustling with the guys.”
Wright is one of three remaining starters from the Super Bowl teams of 2013 and 2014. He, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson are all that remains from the list of key players from those teams. Wilson, of course, wasn't going anywhere this offseason with one year remaining and coming off of one of his best seasons. Seattle singed him to a four-year, $140 million extension. Wager has one year remaining on his deal and is also coming off of one of his best-ever seasons. He is in the middle of negotiations with the Seahawks. Then there was Wright, coming off of his worst season as a professional, appearing in fewer than 12 games for the first time in his career.
Wright might have not been brought back if not for his play late in the season. He had seven tackles and a pass defended on the final weekend of the regular season during a win at home over Arizona. In the Wild Card playoff loss at Dallas, Wright made eight tackles (seven solo) and intercepted a pass in the end zone.
"I think it played a lot into it, " Wright said.
He also credited the fans, media and people in the Seahawks' building who clamored for his return.
"I thank everybody for making that happen," he said.
Wright received a two-year, $15 million contract with $8 million in guaranteed money to be paid out in 2019. The remaining $7 million is not promised to him, which means Seattle could easily let him go after this season should he not perform well or once again become beset by injuries.
But such unpleasant details are best left for the future. Right now, Wright is gearing up for a season in which he hopes to return to his former self.
"What I went through last year really put things in perspective for me," Wright said. "Just approach every game, every practice with gratitude and thankfulness because you just never know when something may happen and it could be your last play. So I’m just real thankful and I’m just going to go into this season and just have fun and enjoy it and not sweat the small stuff.”
Maybe nobody on the team is happier about Wright's return than Wagner.
"Since I got here, he’s been one of the guys that has helped me grow into the player that I became and when we first get into the league, you think about getting to that second deal, a lot of guys don’t make it to the third," Wagner said. "So to see him make it to his third deal and see what he’s able to do for his family and the financial freedom that he’s going to have moving forward, life out of football, is amazing."
Wright has a very productive life away football. He's been very active in charities, including an effort to build wells in Kenya, a country in East Africa. Wright said he and about 20 family and friends will travel there next month. He has helped to raise about $70,000 that he said should provide two water wells at a school he visited last year.
When he returns, training camp will be just around the corner. Seattle coach Pete Carroll has expressed excitement at having a healthy Wright alongside Wagner and veteran Mychal Kendricks. It's a group the coach has called potentially the best Seattle has had since Carroll became head coach in 2010.
But long gone are many prominent names from the glory years, including safety Earl Thomas, not resigned, and safety Kam Chancellor and wide receiver Doug Baldwin, released earlier this month.
"It is weird," Wright said. "And when Kam and Cliff (Avril) went down and (Richard Sherman) got traded, that's when you just saw the team shifting," he said. "But it is what it is. It happens."
Not to Wright. At least, not yet.
"I'm glad they love me," Wright said. "They know what I bring to the table...I know that I'm a good football player but you just have to keep doing it because it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-type business. nobody cares about what you did in the past."
Wright said he is feeling 100 percent healthy right now and plays to be smart during OTAs. Keep his legs fresh. Not put too much on his body until it matters.
Seattle has added some depth at linebacker to help prepare for the future. When asked if that depth could lead to him taking some plays off in order to help remain healthy, Wright wasn't hearing it.
"Nah, nah," he said. "I don't like coming off the field."
Seattle hopes he won't need to for at least another 32 games.