Bobby Wagner returned to the practice field on Sunday, and the second-year middle linebacker had a couple of “Hey, I’m back” hits to mark the occasion.
Wagner, who led the league’s No. 4-ranked defense in tackles last season and finished second in voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, had been out since July 31 because of a sore shoulder. So it was hard to blame him as he made up for lost time.
On a play in the first team drill, Wagner dropped Michael Robinson with a forceful thump after the Pro Bowl-caliber fullback had taken a short pass from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson along the sideline. But there were no hard feelings after the hard hit as Robinson slapped hands with Wagner on his way back to the huddle.
Later, Wagner collided with Jermaine Kearse after he caught a Jackson pass, knocking the second-year wide receiver to the turf.
But, like a little kid with a big bag of Halloween candy, Wagner saved the best for last as he slapped away a Russell Wilson pass that was intended for Sidney Rice, who was open in the back corner of the end zone.
“Oh yeah, don’t forget about me. I’m still one of the best ballers on this team,” Wagner said after practice – and after signing autographs for fans along the fence that separates the berm from the practice fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
That definitely was the case last season, when Wagner produced the fourth-highest tackle total in franchise history (140), intercepted three passes and also had two sacks.
Wagner is, first and foremost, a football player. And football players don’t like standing and watching as others play – as was the case in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego, where Allen Bradford started at middle linebacker and led the team with eight tackles.
“It definitely was difficult watching those guys and wanting to be out there,” Wagner said. “But I understand you’ve got to be healthy, so we’ve taken the right steps. But now I’m good.”
Just ask Michael Robinson, Jermaine Kearse and that Wilson pass that had TD written all over it.
“I’m done with all the patient stuff,” Wagner said. “So let me play again.”
And make impactful plays.