Super Bowl champion KJ Wright spent a decade with the Seattle Seahawks. During nine of those seasons, he shared a locker room with star quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wright spent the 2021 season with the Raiders, while the Denver Broncos acquired Wilson in a successful trade ahead of the 2022 season. Wright, a 2016 Pro Bowl linebacker, seems eager to see how Wilson plays out through 2023 under the guidance from head coach Sean Payton.
Payton spent 16 seasons as the Saints’ head coach in two terms, before giving up coaching. He was officially named the Broncos’ next head coach in February.
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During a recent appearance on NFL Network’s «Good Morning Football,» Wright reflected on whether his former teammate will be able to «handle the criticism» of Payton.
According to Wright, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll protected Wilson by making sure he didn’t come under some criticism when he was the quarterback in Seattle.
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«This is going to be a sight to see, because when he was in Seattle for those 10 years, Coach Carroll did a good job, I’m not going to say protecting Russ, but he really protected him in a way. Like, ‘Hey, the defense is going to be the guide dog, you are going to pass the ball to [former Seahawks running back] Marshawn Lynch,'» Wright said. «‘When you make a mistake, I’ll address it, but for the most part, defense, it’s up to you.’”
Wilson played under Nathaniel Hackett last season, before the coach was relieved of his duties after the Broncos got off to a disappointing start. Hackett is now the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets.
This season, Wilson will likely have to adjust to the coaching style he became accustomed to while playing with Carroll and even Hackett. Wright said Payton won’t have a problem getting players out of the Broncos.
«I heard how he handles his meetings. After a loss, if you played poorly, Sean Payton will let you know loud and clear how he feels about you,» Wright said. «And that’s the question. Can Russ handle the criticism, the harshness, the ‘Hey, you’ve got to get better, and I’m calling you out in front of this whole football team.'» I’m sure Nathaniel Hackett was not a Sean Payton-type personality.»
During Wilson’s final two years with the Seahawks, rumors of tension between the quarterback and the coach began to surface.
Denver presented a fresh start for Wilson, and the arrival of the signal caller instantly created high expectations for the Broncos’ 2022 season. However, Wilson had the worst season of his career and the team finished with a dismal 5-12 record.
Wilson has reportedly been in contact with Payton throughout the offseason as the pair began to build their relationship, but Payton was quick to implement changes within the organization once he arrived in Denver.
One change that will directly affect Wilson is Payton’s policy of not allowing quarterbacks’ personal trainers or outside personnel access to team facilities.
«I’m not very familiar with that,» Payton previously said. «That’s strange to me. That’s not going to happen here. I’m not familiar with that, but our staff will be here, our players will be here, and that will be it.»
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The Broncos host the Raiders on September 10 to open the 2023 season.