Doug Baldwin was a couple of minutes into talking to the media after the Seahawks’ second practice of training camp. Russell Wilson sneaked behind a few reporters standing a few feet to Baldwin’s left.
Wilson then interrupted Baldwin’s news conference with his own question Sunday.
“How’s it feel to live in the high-rent district?” the $87.6 million quarterback asked with a sly grin of Seattle’s newly minted, $46 million wide receiver.
“I don’t know,” Baldwin replied, smiling and leaning on the podium without missing a beat. “You tell me.”
Baldwin, the former undrafted rookie free agent from 2011, said he splurged on “Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Martinelli’s” after signing his contract a month ago.
Meanwhile, Wilson was preparing for his wedding a few weeks ago to singer Ciara at an 18th-century castle in the English countryside.
While Baldwin may not quite know what Wilson’s version of the “high-rent district” is, he absolutely knows the pace and pulse of the Seahawks. He’s one of their team leaders, the fiery force of personality and determination that is a locker-room unifier.
And two days into training camp, he says this is a refreshed, recharged, rededicated team. He said the energy is higher this summer than in previous ones.
That, he said, is because of the last-second loss at the 1-yard line to New England in Super Bowl 49 to end the 2014 season, and the 31-0 hole the Seahawks dug for themselves in January in the 31-24 loss at Carolina in NFC divisional playoffs that ended last season.
“The last couple years have humbled us,” Baldwin said.
“Yeah, the energy is definitely different. It is more ramped up. I think just because we have the collective group that’s been here so long we know the process, we are eager to get it started and then we are kind of just pulling the young guys along. We are excited about it.”
Baldwin’s new deal means he gets a raise from just over $3 million from last season to that average of $11.5 million he’ll have from 2017-20.
Not bad for a guy who filed NCAA paperwork to transfer out of Stanford during his junior year.
His mother, Cindy, got a call back in Florida from her boy at Stanford in 2009. Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh, who had taken over for the fired coach who’d recruited Baldwin, Walt Harris, had had enough of Baldwin.
The receiver’s fiery temper was flaring over not getting the ball enough behind Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu — and with do-it-all Toby Gerhart needing to get the ball in Stanford’s backfield. Even though Baldwin had led Stanford with four touchdown catches as a sophomore in 2008, Harbaugh demoted him. To the scout team.
Baldwin’s mother talked him out of leaving.
Now look at him.
Could he have imaged this, becoming the $46 million leader of a Super Bowl-winning and now contending team?
“I did imagine it,” Baldwin said. “I didn’t know if it would come true — but I did imagine it.”
On Sunday, he was wearing a black T-shirt with “45” on it. That represented the team number of the Army Special Forces combat medics at Joint Base Lewis-McChord with whom he trained — and by whom he said he was “humbled” this month.
“Yeah, so I took a few guys to JBLM to hang out with some combat divers, and we spent a whole day down there,” Baldwin said, “and they kicked our butts in some training.
“At the end of the day, they gave us these shirts, and it was a very humbling experience that we got to enjoy. A few of the guys who wear the shirts, we are just representing what it means to be a combat diver and showing our appreciation for everything that they showed us and taught us.”
The contract Baldwin signed at the end of June to remain a team leader — his old contract ends after this season — includes $24.25 million guaranteed. That and the average per year of $11.5 million through 2020 make Baldwin the NFL’s seventh-highest-paid wide receiver.
What does that $46 million mean to him? What did it tell him about his team?
“It meant a lot, to be recognized and appreciated,” he said. “Plainly, as a human being, all of us want to feel loved and appreciated and valued. And then when you put a number to it ... honestly, it’s really not about the money. But the money does equate to respect and appreciation and love, so it feels great.
“But at the same time nothing really changes on the football field. We are still going to work knowing what our ultimate goal is to get to.”
That, of course, is Super Bowl 51 in February in Houston. Baldwin and the Seahawks have reached two of the last three Super Bowls. Their experienced, under-30 core includes Baldwin and No. 2 wide receiver Jermaine Kearse from Lakes High School and the University of Washington.
Kearse, who re-signed this offseason for $13.5 million for the next three seasons, joined the Seahawks with Wilson in 2012. That was the year after Baldwin arrived from Stanford.
“Doug and Jermaine, I’ve thrown more footballs to them than maybe anyone else my entire life — besides maybe my brother growing up,” Wilson said.
The core of players have come to appreciate the process of training camp, preseason games and the 16-game grind to the playoffs, which the Seahawks have reached in four consecutive years.
Well, maybe that core doesn’t appreciate absolutely all of the process.
“It feels fantastic, just to be back out on the football field,” Baldwin said. “We could care less about the meetings. Just to be back out on the football field, it is great to be back.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle