Seattle's Wilson looks to build on rookie season

SEATTLE (AP) - Russell Wilson chose to play travel agent instead of enjoying a little down time in the offseason.

No, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback wasn't planning a trip for himself and his wife, or trekking to his youth camps in Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington. He was busy working on details that would get him and his teammates out of the Northwest's springtime drizzle so they could gather in Southern California for an impromptu training workout that was as much about bonding as it was football.

Unlike a year ago, there is no question who leads the Seahawks.

"When you think about last year, I got here May 10 and that was rookie minicamp, and then you got OTAs, then regular minicamp, and then everybody is gone for the summer and then everybody is gone before camp," Wilson said.

"So the time to just really hang out and work together and get to know each other really well is tough to do. I mean you learn about each other throughout the season but to be able to have that off season, to be able to really to get to know guys on and off the field is really important and is really going to help us this year."

A year ago, Wilson was still being doubted, and Matt Flynn was the projected starter after being signing to a lucrative free-agent contract. Wilson, after all, was a third-round pick, didn't fit in as an NFL prototype QB, and was supposed to be coach Peter Carroll's quarterback of the future?

The doubting ended during a sensational rookie season in which Wilson nearly led the Seahawks to the NFC title game, only to fall short in a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. He is now being counted on as the catalyst for a team some expect to end up in the Super Bowl.

"When I first came in, I was just trying to get to know guys. Just trying to make your mark in terms of your approach to everything," Wilson said. " As the year went on I think that guys really started to respond to me, and now it's kind of the same.

"When I go into a meeting and say something I think that guys definitely listen. I give them respect and they give me respect. We have a lot of leaders on this team and I'm one of them because I'm calling the plays and I'm in the locker room all the time with the guys.

For most of last season, the media attention Wilson received was far less than fellow rookie QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. This time around, it's Wilson getting some notoriety - in the pages of GQ and on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. He also walked the red carpet of major events and is featured in commercials.

"It's a blessing to be able to do the things that I've been able to do this last year," he said. "But at the same time, I'm just trying to focus on football as much as possible, and stay limited to what I do."

His rookie accomplishments read like a career resume. He tied for the most regular-season touchdown passes by a rookie with 26. He was the only rookie QB since the merger with three game-winning TD passes in the final 2 minutes of regulation or overtime. He was one of five QBs to win 11 or more games in his rookie season and one of six to win his first playoff game. He and RG3 became the only rookie QBs to have at least a 100.0 passer rating or higher for the season.

Those are just the highlights, considering Wilson's accomplishments take up a full page of the Seahawks' weekly game release.

"He started to have confidence and because he was having confidence making the plays we started to extend more confidence to him and started to do more things to trust him," Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "That's how coach described it last year. We trust him with everything because of the plays he was making."

And it's even more remarkable when considering that for the first five games of 2012, Wilson wasn't that good. The Seahawks were 3-2 at that point after winning in Carolina in Week 5, but Wilson looked far from being a franchise quarterback. He ranked 27th in the NFL in passer rating and had five touchdowns and six interceptions.

His first season all changed with one fourth-quarter comeback against the New England Patriots in Week 6. With his team down 23-10 with less than 10 minutes left, Wilson led the Seahawks on two touchdown drives, capped by his 46-yard TD pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining in a 24-23 win.

Wilson's passer rating over the final 11 games was 111.6, good for second in the league behind Aaron Rodgers. His 120.3 rating over the final eight games was the sixth highest in the NFL since 1978 for any QB from game No. 9 through game No. 16, according to STATS.

Season changed. Maybe career changed if Wilson stays on the same trajectory.

"I just think that now, he just knows more. He understands offense more, he understands NFL football more, he knows what it takes to win," Seattle receiver Golden Tate said. "He has surrounded himself around Drew Brees and sees how he does things. I'm excited for him. Like I said, he knows the game, he understands more, he knows the personnel more and that's going to help us out this year. We are way more advanced than we were last year around this time."