Bobby Wagner back in the middle of everything for the Seahawks

Posted Aug 25, 2014

For almost a month, the Seahawks’ defense played without Bobby Wagner as the middle linebacker and leading tackler recovered from a hamstring injury. But Wagner was back where he belongs in practice on Monday.

Bobby Wagner is used to being in the middle of everything for the Seahawks’ defense.

Since being selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Wagner not only has started 29 of a possible 32 games during the regular season, he has led the team in tackles each season – as well as during the postseason, when he started all five games.

But this summer, Wagner spent almost a month standing, watching and doing more than just a little coaching while recovering from the hamstring injury he got while chasing running back Robert Turbin to the end zone during a training camp practice.

“I actually caught him,” Wagner said after Monday’s practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “With a strained hamstring. Let him know that.”

Talk about Always Compete.

But Wagner doesn’t have to just talk a good game anymore, because Monday he returned to practice – where he can let his actions speak for him. And Wagner could make his preseason debut in Thursday night’s finale against the Raiders in Oakland.

“Bobby did fine. He made it through practice today and that’s a really good sign,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Really, judging how he feels tomorrow is probably most crucial. But it’s been a long haul for him waiting it out. I think we’ve probably waited well and he’s ready to go.

“He looked very, very good today.”

And Wagner felt very, very good.

“It was great,” he said. “I got tired of watching everybody have fun, so it was good to have fun too.”

Wagner took the final needed step during warm-ups on Friday night at CenturyLink Field before the game against the Chicago Bears. Despite being on the “not expected to play” list, Wagner was in his familiar No. 54 jersey and went through his paces with the rest of the linebackers.

“I was supposed to run,” Wagner said. “But they cleared me the day before the game, so I was excited that they were going to let me do that. So I went out there to see how the warm-up felt, so I can get closer to getting back today.”

If anything came out of Wagner being sidelined, it forced Brock Coyle into playing with the No. 1 defense – giving the rookie free agent invaluable time, which could prove invaluable to the defense now that veteran backup Heath Farwell is likely headed for surgery after injuring his groin in Friday night’s game.

Coyle is the Seahawks’ leading tackler in the first three preseason games, so he obviously has done more than just step in for Wagner. Coyle had five tackles in the opener against the Broncos in Denver, seven in the Week 2 win against the San Diego Chargers and four against the Bears.

“He could not have had a better break for himself – the opportunity to get out there and get his work done,” Carroll said of Coyle, who led the University of Montana in tackles the past two seasons after being an all-state selection at Bozeman High School.

“Bobby was so kind to sit back for a little while and give him a chance to get in there.”

When that statement was greeted with cocked eyebrows, Carroll smiled and said, “He’s sitting right there.” And that Wagner was, waiting for his turn at the podium after his first practice since July 29.

When Wagner stepped to the podium, he began by introducing himself.

“Bobby Wagner, new middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks,” he said through a smile as bright as the sun that was beating down on him.

But back to Coyle, Carroll continued by offering, “Brock took full advantage of it. He busted his tail to learn everything and he’s had great guys around him to help him come along.”

That list starts with linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr., a three-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowl selection during his career with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers; but also includes defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas and, of course, Wagner and Farwell.

“But play time is just invaluable,” Carroll said. “And he’s been very comfortable and he’s looked very good. It’s great to get Bobby back. But on the other side of it, it’s really helped Brock come along and show what he means to this team.”

As for Wagner’s part in the education of Coyle, he said, “I’ve talked to him a lot. I can relate to him, small-school guy (Wagner went to Utah State). So we’ve just been talking, trying to teach him what I learned my rookie year and stuff that I didn’t see my rookie year. I felt he’s done a great job learning the position, getting out there and making plays and showing his value to the team.”

Now, it’s time for Wagner to get out there, make plays and remind everyone of his value to the team.