Seahawks All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner took a little time out of his week to join ESPN's Mina Kimes on her podcast, an entertaining and informative half-hour long conversation between the two—well three if you count Kimes' dog, Lenny.
The Seahawks' 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, Wagner again showed his generousness by indulging Kimes despite her traitorous turn from lifelong Seahawks fan to Rams preseason broadcaster, and the two covered a lot of interesting ground in their discussion. You should listen to the entire show wherever you get your podcasts, but here are a few of the highlights:
Wagner on what quarantine life is like: "I work out, then I read, do some business stuff, chill with the family. I feel like we always ask for a moment to kind of freeze the world and be able to focus on things, so I'm kind of using it like that. It's an unfortunate way—I wouldn't have wanted it to come this way, but I'm just trying to find the positive in it."
On virtual team meetings: "You know how coach Carroll is. He's done a great job trying to make it kind of exactly like how it would have been if we had come in, so it's just the virtual version of what we do. So the first couple weeks have been pretty good."
Wagner noted that it'll be up to veterans to get caught up, saying that for a young player, going over things on the field can be the best way to learn the playbook: "They don't have that, so they're going to have to really do their best, and us as veterans are going to make sure we make ourselves available for any questions they may have, and kind of just go from there. It's new for everybody, so we're just trying to figure this out."
Kimes asked Wagner if it was intimidating as a rookie to join a defense that already featured Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and others, and he said, "It was a growing-with-them feel. Even though those guys were there and I knew of them, I think Sherm was like 23, Kam was probably 24, Earl was probably 24 as well, and I was coming in 21. So it wasn't like they were that much older than me where we couldn't connect... I felt like we just grew together. They accepted me for who I was. It was easy for guys like K.J. and Sherm to tell me what to expect as a rookie since they just did it. So it was fun, we connected, it almost felt like college, we just started hanging out, got close, and it translated on the field."
Wagner added a funny anecdote from his earliest days as the team's middle linebacker: "I still remember the first time I came in the huddle, I'm staring at Earl, Sherm, Kam, K.J., Brandon Mebane, Leroy Hill, all those guys, and I got and try to call the play, and I think it was Earl who said, 'Where's his neck?' They started asking why I don't have a neck, making fun. So they made it fun, they made the adjustment for me pretty easy. They accepted me and allowed a rookie to kind of call the show a little bit, and I respected them. So it wasn't easy, but when you have guys like that, it's not as bad."
And while Wagner is a much older veteran than those players were who welcomed him as a rookie, he and Wright plan to be just as welcoming to first-round pick Jordyn Brooks.
"Hopefully it's a good sign that people are starting to value the off-the-ball linebacker position," he said. "I'm supporting it, I'm excited to have him on the team. We're going to try to help him the best we can, because we don't get to be around him like normal. Hopefully this thing kind of clears and we're able to get back when everything's safe. Myself and K.J. will gladly take him under our wings and tell him everything we know, because at the end of the day, we want everyone to be successful and everyone to be able to take care of our families."
On facing the challenging offenses in the NFC West: "It just really tests your discipline… It's fun. It really challenges your intellect as a football player. I have fun trying to dissect it and figure it out. There have been plays I feel like I figured out pretty quick, and there's been plays that didn't really go so well. So it's really fun, I think it makes the game fun."
On how things differ for him now compared to early in his career: "I think slowing the game down was something that, coming in it was talked about, but I didn't really understand how to do that. I felt like as I got older, the game is so slow, I'm processing things so quick, and I don't think I was doing that when I first got into the league. You watch older guys like Ray Lewis and all those guys, they don't take a lot of steps. All their steps are precise because they know where the ball is going. So I think I'm a lot more patient than I was when I was a rookie. When you're a rookie, you're just running out there trying to make plays, but now you understand where the ball is going and you try to beat them there."
On wearing hoodies after road games last to support HBCUs (Wagner also donated the money he received for being the Seahawks’ Man of the Year nominee to the HBCU Foundation). "I wanted to find a way to kind of put them on the map… I was wearing hoodies just to kind of shed light on universities that I feel should be thought about prestigiously."
On negotiating his own contract last year: "I really challenged myself to learn the business, and in learning the business I felt like there was an opportunity to show that players are smarter than people give them credit for… I encourage players, even if they don't take the same route I took, to understand the business that we're in."
Stay tuned to the end to hear some of Wagner's reading and binge-watching suggestions to get you through your quarantine.