Despite leaving last week's game with a sprained knee, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was holding out hope that he might be able to make it back for Sunday's season finale at Arizona.
On Friday, however, Wagner was ruled out, meaning he will miss a game for the first time since early in the 2018 season, and for only the third time in the past seven seasons.
"He's got some swelling, and it just didn't loosen up enough," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Friday. "He's got a tight knee, so he can't do it. If he could, if there was any way, he would, but he can't.
"Bobby's been around long enough, and we've communicated long enough that he knows what he can do. He really has great awareness of whether he could or not. If it was possible, he would be ready to go for it, but he just isn't going to make it."
But while this injury will end Wagner's 2021 season, which saw him earn Pro-Bowl honors for an eighth straight year while breaking is own franchise record with 170 tackles, neither he nor Carroll are planning on it being the end of his Seahawks career. Wagner is under contract through next season, but as he himself acknowledged last week, the business side of the game when it comes to the salary cap means little is guaranteed in the NFL. But for whatever speculation there might be about Wagner's future in Seattle, both he and Carroll expressed optimism that Wagner won't be going anywhere this offseason.
"I would love Bobby to play here forever," Carroll said. "He's been as solid as you could ever want a player to be. We've kind of grown up as Seahawks together in this program over the years, and I'd love for him to be here. I don't see why we would be thinking anything else."
Carroll's words backed up similar a sentiment from Wagner earlier in the week.
"In my mind I don't feel like this is my last time," Wagner said Wednesday. "I don't feel like this is my last time putting on a Seahawks uniform. I don't feel like this is my last time doing that. I understand there is a business side to this, but there's a lot of optimism on my end that I'll be back. I'm not worried about it. Obviously, I can't control everything. I can only control my part, and my part on this is I feel like I love this city, I love this team, I love the Seahawks. I always wanted to be a part of a franchise in the good times and bad times and every time. This is a team that I would love to be able to be a part of for a very, very long time. On my end, that's where I'm at, that I'm a Seahawk until they tell me I'm not. That's my mindset. To me, I don't see it as that was my last game or this next game could be my last game."
With Wagner out, linebacker Cody Barton will get the start, his first at middle linebacker. Barton has started games in the past at both weakside and strongside linebacker, but thanks to Wagner's durability, he has never started a regular-season game at what is his most natural position, though he did play all but one defensive snap there last week, recording seven tackles, one for a loss, and a pass defensed in relief of Wagner.
"It is a great opportunity for him to play some football," Carroll said. "He's been waiting for his chances, so it's great for him to get out there. He's so well grooved at what he's doing. He picked up and took over last week really well; he'll do that again this week."
In addition to Wagner, the Seahawks will be without two other players due to injury, with right tackle Brandon Shell and cornerback John Reid both ruled out.
Three more players are listed as questionable, guard Gabe Jackson, tight end Will Dissly and linebacker Carlos Dunlap II. With Dunlap practicing Friday, Carroll expressed optimism the veteran pass rusher will play, while Jackson and Dissly will be game-day decisions.
"Gabe will go all the way to game time and see how it goes," Carroll said. "He's been kind of in and out nursing the knee a little bit at times, and we've taken care of him through the year in practice and stuff like that, but it's a little bit worse than it's been, so I can't tell you. Really, we won't know until Sunday."
If Jackson can't play, Carroll said it will likely mean a second straight start for Phil Haynes, who last week started at left guard in place of Damien Lewis, who has since returned from the COVID-19 list.
On Dissly, who has a heel injury, Carroll said, "Will's got a sore heel, and we're going to go all the way to game time and see what happens on that one too. It's just an unusual injury, I don't remember one like this, so I can't tell you anything other than that it's uncomfortable for him. He's going to have to fight through it if he goes."
As for Dunlap, who was a limited participant on Friday, Carroll said, "He practiced today and got through it, so I think that shows that he has a chance to go."
In non-injury news, Carroll said the Seahawks are expecting to get defensive end Alton Robinson back from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.
Photos from Seahawks practice on Thursday, January 6 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.