Seahawks ‘miss everything’ about Bobby Wagner, whose Rams are Seattle’s next opponent

Linebacker Bobby Wagner has quickly become a leader for the Los Angeles Rams this season. (Jeff Lewis / AP)

RENTON — As Bobby Wagner prepares to face his former team for the first time, he will do so using one of the biggest lessons he learned during his 10 years in Seattle.

“It’s just another game," Wagner, now with the Rams, told reporters in Los Angeles on Wednesday about playing the Seahawks on Sunday at So-Fi Stadium. “Just the game coming up played in our stadium against a team that’s pretty good."

It’s just that easy to set aside any emotion?

Yes, Wagner said, recalling coach Pete Carroll’s long-held philosophy not to make any game bigger than any other.

“It's pretty easy because like being in that organization that's kind of the method," Wagner said. “You never really make a game too big or too little. You never make like a Monday night game or (other) game bigger or the opponent bigger because then it makes you inconsistent because you'll get up for one game but then you won't get up for the next game. So I’m personally just treating this game like it's a normal game."

And that also means leaving any bitterness he might still have over his departure from Seattle aside — he was released on the night of March 8, a few hours after the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to Denver, a decision made so that the Seahawks could save $16.6 million against the salary cap on what was the last year of his contract with Seattle.

“I am a mature man," he said when asked if he still might have any hard feelings. “And that happened a long time ago. So I'm focused on performing at my best ability against the team that I'm playing this week."

Wagner probably feels a bit more about Sunday’s game than he let on.

But having become a team leader so quickly in LA that teammates voted him a captain before he’d ever played a game, he likely also knew it might be bad form to put any additional spotlight on himself given how things have gone with the Rams this season.

When Wagner signed with LA, it appeared a masterstroke both for him and the team, with Wagner getting a five-year, $50 million deal to not only return to his home area but join the defending Super Bowl champions.

But little has gone to plan with the Rams this season, who struggled from the start to play at the same level as a year ago and then have been uncommonly beset by injuries, having lost five in a row to fall to 3-8. They're threatening to become the defending Super Bowl champ with the worst record in NFL history, a dubious distinction held at the moment by the 1999 Denver Broncos, who went 6-10 in the year after John Elway retired.

Things only got worse for the Rams on Wednesday when coach Sean McVay revealed that standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald will miss Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and that it was also “safe to say" that quarterback Matthew Stafford will miss his second straight game with a neck injury and being in the concussion protocol.

Through it all, though, Wagner has by all accounts played at same level as during his decade in Seattle, when he became a player regarded by most as sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer someday.

Wagner has played all but one snap for the Rams and has the best season grade of any linebacker in the NFL from Pro Football Focus at 90.0, which would also be the third-best of his career for a full season. He also has just one missed tackle after missing 14 last season.

About the only difference is his jersey number — 45. He couldn’t wear 54 since that belonged to veteran Leonard Floyd, so Wagner chose 45 since the two numbers still added up to his college number of nine (the reason he chose 54 with Seattle).

“I like that he stayed within the 5-4 thing," Carroll said Wednesday. “We’ve been watching and catching him all year, I love watching him. He’s a great player and was a great part of our program. Bobby knows, he knows that I love competing against him. It’s one of the things that I’ve always cherished about him, people that you know really well and want to go against them and battle with them. I know that he will be ready to go.”

What do the Seahawks miss not having Wagner, Carroll was asked.  

“We miss everything about him," Carroll said. “There’s no replacing him. He was unique, one-of-a-kind guy.”

The Seahawks, though, felt they needed the cap savings to make other moves and decided it was time to turn the middle linebacking duties over to Jordyn Brooks, their first-round pick in 2020.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday he has been nothing but impressed with how Wagner has handled the ups, and mostly downs, of this season.

“This has certainly not been ideal or anything that I think he would anticipate," McVay said. “But what I’ve seen is a guy who is so steady, so consistent in his approach. … I think you really, especially in light of all the different things we are going through, makes me respect him that much more because of the steadiness, because of the consistency. I can’t say enough good things about Bobby Wagner."

That steadiness in approach is why Wagner is trying to treat the game same as any other.

But he said he will leave a little time for reunions before and after.

“I’m sure they’ll come up (to talk)," Wagner said. “I’m sure I’ll say something afterwards. At the end of the day, we’re still competing so whatever happens, happens. There’s not really a set plan on saying ‘what’s up?’ Just going to go about my routine. Obviously I’m a kind person. I’m not going to stiff-arm anybody, per se."

Seahawks claim safety Johnathan Abram

The Seahawks added to their safety depth by claiming former Raiders first-round pick Johnathan Abram off waivers from Green Bay Wednesday. Abram, 26, was the 27th overall pick of the 2019 draft by the Raiders and started 34 games in three seasons and part of another before being waived by the Raiders earlier this month and claimed by Green Bay. He played in two games — but with just one defensive snap, the rest on special teams — before being waived Tuesday.

The Seahawks may need some depth at safety with Ryan Neal suffering elbow and shoulder injuries in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. Neal did not practice on Wednesday though he did take part in walk-through, which Carroll said indicated he has a chance to play Sunday.

Notes

— Five other Seahawks also sat out Wednesday, four with what was listed as illness — running back Travis Homer, guard Damien Lewis, guard Phil Haynes and nose tackle Al Woods (Homer was also listed with a knee injury). Linebacker Bruce Irvin was also out with a knee injury.

— Receiver DK Metcalf had an apparent catch on the final series of regulation overturned via replay. What did Metcalf think of that play and replay decision? “Don’t put it in the official’s hands," he said Wednesday. “Take care of my side of everything and don’t depend on anybody else to make a call.” And how could he have avoided the play being overturned? “Get up and pray. That’s all you can do.”

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