RENTON, Wash. (AP) It’s often forgotten that Bobby Wagner was not the first rookie to start at middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks since Pete Carroll took over.
A year before Wagner’s arrival in 2012, K.J. Wright started his first NFL game at middle linebacker due to an injury. Because of his size and versatility, Wright has always remained Seattle’s security blanket should something happen at the position.
So it’s little surprise that with Wagner out for at least a couple of weeks following a turf toe injury suffered last week, it will be Wright starting in his place on Sunday when the Seahawks visit St. Louis.
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”I’ve done it before. It’s something that’s not new to me at all,” Wright said Wednesday. ”I hate to see Bobby go down but guys have to step up and I believe we’ll handle it just fine.”
Wagner is the latest injury blow for the Super Bowl champions. Starting center Max Unger (foot) and starting tight end Zach Miller (ankle surgery) have already been ruled out for this week. Miller will miss his third straight game and Unger his second.
The one piece of possibly positive injury news is that cornerback Byron Maxwell could return sooner than expected from a calf strain suffered in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Carroll said Maxwell will be evaluated daily but he wasn’t ready to rule him out for this week.
”He’s made a big jump and we’ll see. We’ll go day-by-day and see what happens,” Carroll said. ”It’s an unusual strain that he has but he has shocked the guys with how quickly he’s bounced back by this point.”
Wagner was hurt in the second quarter last Sunday. He returned in the second half but was noticeably slower moving around the field. Rather than move Wright to the middle mid-game, the Seahawks used undrafted rookie Brock Coyle to bridge the second quarter until Wagner could return.
With a full week to prepare and outside linebackers Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin both healthy, it made more sense for the Seahawks to move Wright to the middle. Carroll did not have an exact timeframe for Wagner’s return, but said he would not need surgery.
”Malcolm is a legitimate starter on our team. Bruce is back raring to go and playing good football. K.J. is one of our favored guys because of all of his versatility that he has,” Carroll said. ”We maintain leadership and a voice in the huddle so we’re very fortunate we have this depth and (linebackers coach Ken Norton) has done a great job to keep these guys rotating. So in the event that you have to do something we have a really classy guy stepping in who really knows what he’s doing.”
Smith, the Super Bowl MVP, was in for 25 plays against Dallas after not playing at all defensively the previous week against Washington. Smith had offseason ankle surgery and missed part of training camp during his recovery.
Wright started the first game of his career back in 2011 at middle linebacker because of an injury to starter David Hawthorne. He filled in for two games last season when Wagner was out with a high-ankle sprain.
Wright said there is little difference between the two positions, other than the need to call the plays.
”He has great instincts,” Carroll said. ”He has unusual body type for that positon but his mind and his savvy and his instincts are well beyond any restrictions. He can play anywhere.”
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