RENTON, Wash. – You’d probably say it’s Bobby Wagner’s time to shine, if he hadn’t already spent the past six years doing exactly that.
The Seattle Seahawks’ middle linebacker has racked up at least 100 tackles every year, been named to four Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl in six very eventful seasons.
Still, it’s hard to deny the spotlight will be on Wagner in a way it never has before, thanks to the departures of Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril.
“We knew changes were coming,” Wagner said during an exclusive interview with the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX. “You never expect them to come when they come. I was hoping we got a couple more years to play together. We were very fortunate for the years that we got, the years we were able to play together. You’ve got to recognize we played together for quite some time, and that’s uncommon, especially the way everything is set up.
“So, it’s sad that those guys left, but it’s an opportunity to keep going.”
Wagner got at least one piece of good news in the offseason, when the Seahawks hired Ken Norton Jr. to replace Kris Richard as defensive coordinator. Norton was the Seahawks’ linebackers coach when Wagner first came to the team, and remained a mentor and friend after departing to become the Oakland Raiders’ defensive coordinator.
Wagner said that when Norton texted to say he was coming back to Seattle, Wagner thought it was a joke.
“But then when they made it official, there was an excitement and joy that immediately races through my heart,” he said. “That’s somebody that you grew up with, a mentor, a person who, we’re both trying to strive for things. He’s got stuff that he wants to accomplish during his career, and I’ve got things I want to accomplish.
“So, I feel like a guy like that, it’s going to be a blessing to do it together.”
Wagner, who was a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year last season and has said winning the award is one of his goals, will take all the help he can get. He said he set his sights on specific areas of improvement over the offseason.
“I want to improve on pass coverage, and I want to improve on blitzing,” he said. “Also, man-to-man coverage when I’m out there by myself. Those three things are my main focus. I want to get my hand on the ball more and I feel that I can do that. I feel that’s one aspect of my game that I want to improve, as well as keep letting the sacks add up.
“Understanding that my opportunities don’t come often, so I’ve got to make them count. I’m excited to grow, as a player (and) as a person.”
Wagner said he’s prepared to play a more pivotal role on the defense this season.
“I see the value of being the play-caller and the quarterback of the defense …” he said. “With Coach Norton here, since he’s been here, he’s told me the history of the middle linebacker position, and it’s basically being an extension of the defensive coordinator and being the quarterback of the defense.”