Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was in his usual spot in the middle of the Seahawks on Thursday, preparing for his 10th season in the NFL on what was the penultimate day of voluntary organized team activities for Seattle.
Earlier this offseason it sounded like Wagner and the rest of Seattle's veterans would be home this week, only arriving next week for mandatory minicamp, as players stated, through the NFLPA, that they would not be taking part in voluntary offseason workouts, citing COVID-19 concerns.
Eventually, following conversations between veterans and head coach Pete Carroll, the majority of players decided to report this week, giving them a week of on-field work before next week's minicamp. In addition to concerns about safety—the statement was put out in April when it was not yet clear how readily available the COVID-19 vaccine would be this spring and summer—Wagner said players also were reacting to how well things went last year when the offseason program was entirely virtual.
"We kind of all saw last year that when we were away and doing things through zoom, it worked," Wagner said. "So we kind of tried to change the definition of voluntary, because over the past few years, voluntary hasn't necessarily meant voluntary. So that was a little bit of the idea, but obviously we wanted to come and get some work before we just dove right into the season, so it was a process. We were never not coming, but we wanted to control when we did come."
Also noteworthy when Wagner was on the field was, of course, who wasn't next to him. Ever since Wagner came into the league in 2012, he has started at linebacker along with K.J. Wright, but Wright is still a free agent, meaning he isn't at the VMAC or any other team's facility this time of year. Wagner is holding out hope that Wright could still re-sign and said the two remain in regular contact.
"Of course it's awkward," Wagner said. "I'm entering Year 10, and I'm used to seeing a particular face, so it's definitely different. I'm hoping that everything still works out and we're able to get him back. I think he's a tremendous player, a tremendous person, someone that anyone would love to have on their team, so we'll see what happens. I have conversations with him, I think he's kind of waiting for the right opportunity, and I know he'll get it because he deserves it. To have a guy that's coming off probably one of his best seasons that he's had, it would be shame if he didn't end up on a team that he wanted to be on."
But whether or not Wright is re-signed—and again, Wagner is very much in favor of that happening—Seattle's defensive captain is very confident in what the defense can do in 2021.
"I hope that's not the case, I hope we're able to figure that out and work it out, but it would definitely be different," Wagner said. "Not having him, having a guy like that a playmaker, someone that's really, really productive—especially these last two years, he's been very, very productive—it'll be different, but this is a business, and we'll figure out what we need to do. And I'm very, very confident in our group that we have."