In the middle of a press conference this past Thursday following the Seahawks' 11th practice of training camp, Bobby Wagner allowed himself to pause and reflect for a brief moment before answering a question about how continuity on the defensive side of the football has played into Seattle's success over the past four seasons.
"That's crazy," Wagner said, having just been reminded he was entering his fifth NFL season. "Five."
Wagner, who made his first Pro Bowl last year, captains a Seattle defense that features some of the NFL's best players at each level. From the always disruptive defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, to the consistency of linebacker K.J. Wright, to the 'Legion of Boom' secondary featuring standout safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas as well as lockdown corner Richard Sherman, it's a group that's collectively helped the Seahawks lead the League in scoring defense for four years straight.
"You get an understanding with them and you know who's around you and where they're going to be and you trust them," Wagner said. "The more years you play with them, the more years you trust them and it's exciting. I think we're fortunate."
But it hasn't always been all roses for the Seahawks middle linebacker. Like everyone else, Wagner's NFL journey had to start from somewhere, and ahead of Seattle's first preseason game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, he reminisced about the first time he set foot on the field for a professional football game.
"My first time was crazy because I had coach [Ken] Norton, so he probably made it as worse as possible," Wagner recalled of his initial preseason play four years ago. "They wanted me to wear this pad that I didn't want to wear, so he told me he wasn't going to play me. We ended up getting into like a little argument before I got out there and then he threw me out there and said go play.
"But nah, it's fun man, getting out there finally getting ready to play with the guys. I think you've got a lot of emotions going on, but it's what you've been dreaming of your whole life and you finally get out there. It's just a time to just have fun, and I was just trying to hit everybody."
Not much has changed in Wagner's approach to preseason football since then, with him adding he's more than ready to line up against someone wearing a different uniform.
"You get tired of seeing the same people's faces," Wagner said. "We chase down Russell [Wilson] every play, so it would be good to actually hit the quarterback instead of letting him run by."
Wagner will likely get that chance on Saturday, with Seattle head coach Pete Carroll saying Friday that the starters will play "early in the game" at Kansas City. But Carroll said the backups are slated to "get a ton of work," meaning the team's matchup with the Chiefs represents a prime opportunity for young players to put their game on tape not only for the Seahawks, but for 31 other NFL teams. Because as Wagner notes, if players don't make it in Seattle when club is forced to trim its current 90-man roster to 53 before the regular season, "you can make it somewhere else."
"We do our best to teach them as much as we can during this process," Wagner said. "At the end of the day when we go out there we just want them to have fun. We don't want them thinking out there and that's the thing we kind of harp on, just flying around making plays.
"You're a rookie, you're going to make mistakes," he added. "It is just part of the game. We still make mistakes as veterans and just don't worry about it. Just have fun and fly around and do something that is going to catch somebody's eye."
Look through the best photos from the 11th day of Seahawks Training camp held at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.