Prior to kickoff of last weekend's game, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner had a chance to talk with former Washington linebacker London Fletcher, a member of that organization's Ring of Honor who is now part of the Commanders' radio broadcast team.
A few days after the Seahawks defeated the Commanders in a game that saw Wagner collect 10 tackles, half a sack and two passes defensed, he called that pregame meeting with Fletcher, "a cool moment," noting the respect he has for Fletcher and adding, "You just want to be viewed in that same way whenever you walk away from the game."
The way Wagner is playing this season, there's no reason to think he'll walk away from the game anytime soon, but with each passing season he is assuring that, when that day comes, he will surely be mentioned in the same breath as the great linebackers who came before him, and will someday be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
With those 10 tackles last week, Wagner is already up to 95 for the season, a total that leads the team, and that leaves him five away from a milestone that will put him in some rare company that includes Fletcher. When Wagner adds five more tackles to his season total, it will mark the 12th time in as many seasons that he has recorded 100 or more tackles, making him one of just three players since the NFL started keeping track of tackles to have 12 consecutive 100-tackle seasons, joining Fletcher, who had 14 straight from 2000-2014, and Derrick Brooks, who had 12 straight from 1996-2007.
It will be a remarkable feat for Wagner when he reaches that mark, most likely on Sunday against the Rams, not just because it speaks to his talents and consistency as a linebacker, but also his durability while playing one of the most physical positions on the field. As great as they were, Hall of Famers like Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher didn't have streaks of 100-tackle seasons this long due to seasons shortened by injuries.
Wagner, and eight-time Pro-Bowler and nine-time All-Pro selection (six first team, three second team), has always held the greats that played before him in very high regard—just last week he talked about how he reached out to some of those players when he was a rookie preparing for his first NFL season—but he also isn't one to make a big deal about his own accomplishments, even if it puts him in the company of those greats.
"Honestly, I just tackle people, try to be the best version of myself, try to help this team out the best that I can," Wagner said.
Wagner also isn't interested in hyping up a return to Los Angeles after spending the 2022 season with the Rams, the one year he spent away from the Seahawks before returning to Seattle this offseason. If anything, that trip to L.A. holds extra significance because it is close to home for the Southern California native.
"It was just one year," he said of facing the Rams in L.A. "So it kind of just brings me back to what it was before, going back, being able to play at home. It's a big game and it's the next game. It should be fun."
But even if Wagner isn't focused on his individual achievements this year, his play is definitely getting noticed by teammates and coaches.
"He's doing great," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "The way we play him and the demands of the position really suit him well. The best we've ever done for him. We're trying to maximize everything that he brings. He's tackling well, really solid tackler, his pass coverage stuff and his own stuff has really been nice. He's doing great. Not to even mention all of the other things that he brings, it's the leadership, the direction, the toughness and all of that stuff."
And Wagner is doing what he's doing this season while being an every-down player at 33 years old, something that was hardly a given when the Seahawks brought him back this year. Wagner has played every defensive snap in seven of nine games, only coming out late in the game in Seattle's Week 4 win over the Giants, and in the Week 9 loss in Baltimore.
"I didn't know, I wasn't sure how that was going to work out. I figured that's the only way he would look at it, but we needed to just see," Carroll said of Wagner playing as big a role as he has on defense. "We're past halfway and he's played almost every play so far, more power to him. We were behind two weeks ago, I was getting him out of the game and he's fighting me, he wants to stay out there. That's exactly what I would expect, and I have no problem with that, just have to wage that battle at those times."
Wagner didn't re-sign with the Seahawks necessarily expecting to play every snap, as had been the usual for him in this decade with the team before one season in L.A.; he knew he had to earn his role in a defense that had changed in his year away, but he being an every-down player is clearly a role he is comfortable in, even in his 12th season.
"I was letting things play out how they were going to play out," he said. "I was coming back into somewhat of a new situation and I felt like I wanted to prove that I'm playing at a high level, and that's all I could control. I wasn't coming back and making demands, I wanted to come back and be myself and be the best version of myself. If that's me playing every snap, that's me playing every snap."
Wagner has, of course, also provided a lot of leadership in addition to his on-field play, once again serving as a team captain, and giving a pre-practice speech following a season-opening loss to the Rams that Carroll and players credit with helping the team turn things around before a Week 2 win in Detroit.
The Seahawks won't view this second game against the Rams as a chance for revenge or anything like that, but they do want to show that they're a lot better than the team that was outscored by 23 points in the second half after leading by six at halftime.
"Coming into the game vs. L.A. everybody had all these different things of what the team's supposed to be, then we come out and don't perform as well as we should," Wagner said of that Week 1 loss. "Sometimes that can be a letdown for a team, but it's just understanding that it's a very, very long season and obviously we were able to rebound from that and have a really good win over Detroit.
"Obviously, it's a big game because it's a divisional game and a team we're very familiar with, but it's an opportunity for us to go out and just continue to keep getting better, and continue to keep improving on the areas we need to improve on, especially defensively. That game was so far away, so we're not that team, and we'll show it."
Seahawks practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Nov. 15, 2023.