During his decade with the Seahawks, Bobby Wagner made the Seattle area home, and that didn't change during his one season with the Los Angeles Rams, and that meant, at times, some not-so-great thoughts popping into Wagner's head if he drove past the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
But a year after being released by the Seahawks, Wagner returned to the team with whom he built a Hall of Fame résumé, and on Wednesday he met with the media, via Zoom, from the building that produced some mixed emotions over the past year.
"Just being able to come into the building has been cool," Wagner said. "Honestly, things didn't end that great, and I don't live that far from the building, so I would drive and not have too many nice things to say about the building, until this happened. So it's good to be back in this place."
As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll detailed last week at the NFL Annual Meeting, a reunion with Wagner was the logical move as soon as the Rams released him. The Seahawks love Wagner as a player, a person and a leader, and they also had a need at linebacker with Jordyn Brooks recovering from an ACL injury and with Cody Barton leaving in free agency. And for Wagner, returning to Seattle made too much sense seeing as he wasn't really looking to play anywhere else in the first place. Wagner's one season away allowed him to play in L.A. close to where he grew up, so there was a benefit there, but once the Rams decided to move on there was no better fit for the nine-time All-Pro.
"I never really wanted to leave in the first place," he said. "Obviously, business happened, and I had an opportunity to go play in the city I grew up in, and so I thought that was cool. And then I want to come back to the city I kind of matured in. For me, it was cool to be able to make that happen. Me being able to represent myself, I always thought it was cool when you had those agents out there that were able to get the player what he wanted, so I wanted to be home, and this was another home of mine, and I wanted to be back."
As a veteran player who has also served as his own agent, Wagner knows that the business side of the game means he won't necessarily get to have his career play out exactly how he'd like, but if it is up to him, he would love for Seattle to be his last stop, though he doesn't see this as his final season.
"If I had my way, yes," Wagner said when asked about finishing his career in Seattle. "I hope to play longer than this, but I think we're at that point where you take it a year at a time."
While Wagner's talent and leadership are the primary reason the Seahawks came calling, he also credits the efforts of teammates, led by Quandre Diggs, for his return. Diggs and other Seahawks tweeted often throughout the offseason about the Seahawks bringing Wagner back, and in fact it was Diggs who broke the news of the signing.
"It meant a lot," Wagner said. "I think that probably played a part in me coming back. There was so much love, not only from him, but DK (Metcalf), Tyler (Lockett), guys I had played with wanting me back. I think that played a part in it. A lot had changed since then. There were guys who stepped into leadership roles, guys who stepped up, playing wise, and sometimes they don't want things to go back to the way they were. So to me, those guys, especially Quandre—I don't think I went a day without seeing a tweet from somebody—it was cool."
And because Wagner recognizes that a lot has changed, he isn't coming to Seattle expecting everything to be exactly the same for him as it was during his first 10 seasons.
"For me as an older guy, it's always your job to uplift the guys around you, whatever that looks like," he said.
When it comes to leadership, Wagner said he expects it to be a collaborate effort, perhaps more so than when he was the clear leader on defense in recent years.
"I think it can be a collaborative thing, not a one-person thing," Wagner said. "… Coming back, I think it can be a collective effort, and I just want to be the best version of myself."
As for things on-field, Wagner said he'll figure out his role on the defense as things go along. Seattle's defense looks quite a bit different than it did when Wagner last played here in 2021, but it shouldn't be too big of an adjustment since the Seahawks' new scheme looks a lot like what he ran in L.A. last year.
"The scheme that I went to with the Rams was the scheme that Seattle was transitioning to, so I was able to play in that system for a year, get a little bit of an understanding," he said. "The biggest thing that will be an adjustment for me will be learning the terminology that they use and the different intricacies to how they do it, but they're still going to be running some of the stuff they ran when I was here before.
"I'm just excited to compete and find my way on the field and keep playing at a high level."
Check out photos of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner from throughout his ten seasons in Seattle.