Super Bowl champion K.J. Wright spent a decade with the Seattle Seahawks. For 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 blockbuster trade ahead of the 2022 season. Wright, a 2016 Pro Bowl linebacker, seems eager to see how Wilson plays during the 2023 under head coach Sean Payton.
Payton spent 16 seasons as the Saints’ head coach over two stints, before stepping away from coaching. He was officially named the next head coach of the Broncos in February.
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During a recent appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” Wright pondered whether his former teammate will be able to “handle the critique” from Payton.
According to Wright, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll protected Wilson by making sure he was not subjected to certain criticisms 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 of, I’m not going to say protecting Russ, but he really just shielded him in a way, like, ‘Hey, the defense is going to be the lead dog, you’re going to hand the ball off to [former Seahawks running back] Marshawn Lynch,'” Wright said. “‘When you do mess up, I’m going to address it, but for the most part, defense, it’s all on you guys.'”
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 with the New York Jets.
This season, Wilson will likely have to adjust from the style of coaching that he may have become accustomed to while playing under Carroll and even Hackett. Wright claimed that Payton will not have a problem calling Broncos players out.
“I heard how he runs his meetings. After a loss, if you played bad, 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 critiqueness, the harshness, the, ‘Hey, you got to get better, and I’m calling you out in front of this entire football team.’ I’m sure Nathaniel Hackett wasn’t a Sean Payton-type personality.”
During Wilson’s last couple of years with the Seahawks, rumors began to surface about tension between the quarterback and coach.
Denver presented a fresh start for Wilson, and the signal-caller’s arrival 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 started building their relationship, but Payton quickly implemented changes within the organization once he arrived in Denver.
One change that will directly impact Wilson is Payton’s policy against granting access to personal quarterback coaches or outside personnel to the team’s facility.
“I’m not too familiar with that,” Payton previously said. “That’s foreign to me. That’s not gonna take place here. I’m unfamiliar with it, but our staff will be here, our players will be here, and that will be it.”
The Broncos host the Raiders on Sept. 10 to open the 2023 season.