Bobby Wagner showed again in 2017 that he is more than capable of producing spectacular plays, be it a memorable big hit or a high degree-of-difficulty interception or fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
But what the Seahawks linebacker talks about most when discussing his own play is consistency, and that too was on display in a season in which, despite playing through a hamstring injury for much of the season, he was again one of the league's top defensive players.
For his play in 2017, Wagner was named to the Associated Press first-team All-Pro team for the third time in four years—he earned second-team honors in 2015. Wagner's consistent play has also made him his team's most consistent recipient of postseason honors in recent years, having also earned Pro Bowl honors for four straight years. He received votes on 40 of 50 ballots. Free safety Earl Thomas was named to the second team, his fifth All-Pro selection, having been second-team in 2011 and first-team from 2012-2015. He missed first-team honors by just one vote. Tyler Lockett also earned second-team honors as a kick returner for the second-straight year. He earned first-team honors as a rookie in 2015. Quarterback Russell Wilson and Linebacker K.J. Wright also received one All-Pro vote apiece.
"I just want to be player who, whenever I'm done, people look back and say, 'He was very consistent and very productive.'" Wagner said in November. "… It's just wanting to be great, wanting to understand, trying to be better, not being satisfied with what I've done. I just keep pushing forward. I feel like each year you can grow, each year you can get better, you can find something in your game. I feel like that's how players like Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, all those guys, they lasted so long—they never were satisfied with what they were doing at that moment."
Despite being limited by his injury, rarely practicing late in the season, Wagner started every game and finished with 133 tackles, including a league-high 97 solo tackles. Wagner's 13 tackles for loss were also tied for the most among non-line-of-scrimmage players such as defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers. Wagner also had two interceptions, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown and a tackle for loss that produced a safety.
"I just feel I grew in areas, pass (defense), and I felt like I was always a good run defender, but I think it's just focusing on elevating my game and not being satisfied with where I'm at, always trying to get better," Wagner told the Associated Press. "I think it just shows there is a mindfulness there to get better. I feel I have gotten better each and every year, which is my goal ultimately. I think it's a mindset thing."
Wagner has recorded at least 100 tackles in every season of his six-year career, a first in franchise history, and his 788 tackles already ranks fourth on the all-time franchise list, just one short of Joe Nash's third-place total. If Wagner could continue his 100-tackle streak for two more seasons, he would become the team's all-time leading tackler in just eight seasons.
In addition to again being a dominant force on the field, Wagner has seen his leadership role grow in the past year. Wagner was voted defensive co-captain along with Kam Chancellor before the start of the season, then last week he was named the team's Steve Largent Award winner for the first time, an award voted on by teammates and given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks. But even with so many honors coming his way recently, another All-Pro nod is particularly meaningful because of the exclusivity of that group.
"I think it's kind of with the Pro Bowl and things like that it's cool, but when you get voted for these types of awards it shows you all the work you do in the offseason, the grinding, all the things you push through," Wagner told the AP. "... When you get this, when people say this is not AFC, NFC, this is the league, this is who we deem the best at their position in the league."
Thomas returned to the All-Pro team after missing the final five games of the 2016 season as well as a pair of playoff games due to a broken leg. He returned from the first serious injury of his career by recording 88 tackles, his most since 2014, seven passes defensed, a forced fumble and two interceptions, one of which he returned 78 yards for a touchdown.
"Earl had a terrific year," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He had a really good year and he did a marvelous job of recovering from his injury and coming back. He shocked us with his return, but what I shouldn't have been shocked with was how competitive he was. I shouldn't have been surprised by that, but I just thought that it was such a big injury that it would take him longer. The first days that he jumped back on the practice field, he shouldn't have been out there, but he was and he really never backed off from that. He had a marvelous season, here he is going to the Pro Bowl again and he deserves it."
Lockett also came back from a broken leg that ended his 2016 season early, and his injury required surgery, making it a challenge for him to even make it back for the regular season. Lockett did make it back, however, and played in all 16 games. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week when he returned five kicks for 197 yards against Atlanta, then he capped his season by returning a kickoff for a 99-yard touchdown against Arizona, his first return touchdown since his rookie season in 2015.
"Tyler has done a remarkable job this season," Carroll said. "I don't know if you know, he hasn't been able to be the same as he's been, physically. He has just had to endure it and make it through it, and every week has been a battle for him. He just keeps showing up and playing like crazy… He's a great player for us."
The full AP 2017 NFL All-Pro Team, via NFL.com:
Quarterback:Tom Brady, New England
Running Back: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Flex: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Tight End:Rob Gronkowski, New England
Wide Receivers:Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
Left Tackle:Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams
Right Tackle:Lane Johnson, Philadelphia
Left Guard:Andrew Norwell, Carolina
Right Guard: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh
Center:Jason Kelce, Philadelphia
Edge Rushers: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans
Interior Linemen:Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh
Linebackers:Chandler Jones, Arizona; Luke Kuechly, Carolina; Bobby Wagner, Seattle
Cornerbacks:Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota
Safeties:Kevin Byard, Tennessee; Harrison Smith, Minnesota
Defensive Back: Darius Slay, Detroit
Placekicker:Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
Kick Returner:Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams
Punt Returner:Jamal Agnew, Detroit
Special Teamer:Budda Baker, Arizona
Quarterback:Carson Wentz, Philadelphia
Running Back:Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Flex:Alvin Kamara, New Orleans
Tight End:Travis Kelce, Kansas City
Wide Receivers:Julio Jones, Atlanta; Adam Thielen, Minnesota
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay
Right Tackle:Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City, and Daryl Williams, Carolina
Left Guard:Rodger Saffold, Los Angeles Rams
Right Guard:Zack Martin, Dallas
Center:Alex Mack, Atlanta
Edge Rushers: Everson Griffen, Minnesota; Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas
Interior Linemen:Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia; Calais Campbell, Jacksonville
Linebackers:Von Miller, Denver; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore; Telvin Smith, Jacksonville
Cornerbacks:Casey Hayward, Los Angles Chargers; A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville
Safeties:Earl Thomas, Seattle; Micah Hyde, Buffalo
Defensive Back:Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota
Place Kicker:Brett Kern, Tennessee
Kick Returner:Tyler Lockett, Seattle
Punt Returner:Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams
Special Teamer:Matthew Slater, New England
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seahawks' 26-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals during Week 17 to finish the season at CenturyLink Field.