There’s a lot less of Russell Wilson this offseason.
No more hype videos bombarding social media, no more chronicles of every globetrotting trip, no more merchandise pitches or cringey catchphrases.
And apparently, fewer gourmet meals, too.
“I feel lean and mean and ready to go,” said Wilson, who looked noticeably thinner when he stepped up to the podium on Thursday. These were his first public comments since his post-game pledge on Jan. 8 to do everything in his power to reverse both his and the Denver Broncos’ fortunes in 2023.
Wilson was light on specifics when asked exactly how much weight he’d lost.
“I’m not worried about that, I’m not counting,” Wilson said. “All I know is I’m excited to play again.”
Wilson has kept a much lower public profile since Sean Payton took over as head coach following a 5-12 debacle, Denver’s sixth straight losing season.
Payton’s pledge for the Broncos
Payton pledged on Day 1 that the Broncos would put in the work behind closed doors and out of the watchful eyes of the public. He also declared Wilson would no longer be allowed to have his personal QB coach on the premises like Nathaniel Hackett had allowed.
Payton hasn’t made his coordinators, including former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, available to the media. Nor did he allow the team to trot out any free agents who made up the most expensive class in the NFL this season.
He scrapped a minicamp the NFL had already announced and he allowed access to the team’s draft picks following its rookie minicamp, meaning the newcomers spoke before any veterans could.
The first one to the podium was Wilson, who said his body and mind renewal was in some ways no different than any other offseason.
“You always reflect on every year, ever since I came into the National Football League, the things that you can do better, things you can always work on,” Wilson said. “You always want to be in the best shape of your life. I’m ready for that. I’m better than ever.
“I think also mentally, you know there’s always the journey of highs and lows. There’s been a lot of highs and some tough lows, but adversity, you’ve got to be able to handle it all. And I’ll be ready to go.”
Wilson: Payton ‘one of the best coaches’ ever
Wilson threw just 16 touchdown passes to go with 11 interceptions, a career-high 55 sacks and a 4-11 record after the Broncos sent four premium picks and three veterans to Seattle for the one-time Super Bowl winner, whom they gave a $245 million contract extension last summer.
Wilson praised Payton’s hiring, calling him “one of the best coaches to ever coach this game. He’s intense, he’s focused, he’s such a great teacher of the game.”
And he lauded the front office for adding free agents Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey to an offensive line featuring the returns to health of Garett Bolles and Lloyd Cushenberry III.
He’s also excited about the returns of starting running back Javonte Williams and No. 1 wide receiver Tim Patrick.
At one point Thursday, Williams, about eight months removed from a serious knee injury, took a handoff from Wilson, planted on his surgically repaired knee and cut upfield.
“Javonte’s one of the best backs in the game,” Wilson said. “He’s a guy who’s hard to tackle, he’s got great hands, he’s great in protection. He brings a lot of great confidence to us.”
Wilson had some nice throws at practice but it’s hard to judge this early how much better he’ll be in 2023. But Payton did say Wilson was sharp and progressing as expected.
“Look, we’re installing an entirely new offense. So you see glimpses and then you see a lot we got to correct,” Payton said of his offense. “But the process is going well.”
NOTES: WR Jerry Jeudy sustained a bruised thigh but Payton said he was fine. … Payton said money was a factor in the release of K Brandon McManus, the last remaining member of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 championship team. His departure freed up $2.5 million in cap space. McManus signed with Jacksonville. … Payton said recently re-signed S Kareem Jackson will be at practice next week.