Seattle's Bobby Wagner thriving as NFL leader in tackles
Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is wrapped up by Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, right, and defensive tackle John Jenkins in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
RENTON, Wash. (AP) One of the staples of the NFL during the offseason is coming up with lists.
So when the NFL Network revealed its list of top 100 players in the league earlier this year, and Seattle Seahawks' Bobby Wagner wasn't listed, it was a surprising omission.
And for Wagner, it felt like another time of being slighted.
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''There was a lot of things I was tired of hearing, whether it was that, whether it was people even media people in this area that were saying stuff, I was just tired of having my name getting followed by some disrespect,'' Wagner said on Wednesday.
''So just trying to prove everybody wrong again just like I normally do in life.''
Through 11 weeks of the regular season, it's been difficult not to notice Wagner.
Seattle's standout middle linebacker leads the NFL with 108 tackles, including 15 last week in the Seahawks' win over Philadelphia.
He's on pace to shatter the franchise's single-season mark for tackles and has already become the first player in Seattle history with five straight seasons with at least 100 tackles.
On a defense filled with stars such as Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, Wagner is finding a way to stand out above others.
''He just keeps balling. He just keeps playing really good football,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''His game plan preparation is there, he's taking advantage of all of that. He's really on the mark on his fits and stuff in the running game.
''He's a fantastic athlete. I think this is a result of scheme awareness, growth, good guys playing around him and probably the heightened level of his preparation just because he is just more experienced now.''
Wagner didn't feel slighted two years ago when he was selected as a first-team All-Pro despite missing five games with a painful toe injury. But last season his game appeared to slip.
He had 114 tackles in 15 games – a number he's almost surpassed already this season – and had just one half-sack. Wagner wasn't making the impact on the field he expected.
So this offseason was all about revamping his process.
''I just felt like I had a different approach I was tired of being disrespected and changed my eating, started boxing, and then I think I found a lot of peace in life,'' Wagner said.
''Just different things, family situations and things like that. Just a lot of things that came into it. I can't really pinpoint one thing.''
Along with changing his eating, Wagner increased the amount of boxing, yoga and swimming in his exercise routine, activities he's trying to continue during the regular season.
''I feel like I finally got a routine with massages, and yoga and swimming, and all these different things that I do. I think it has helped me not get hurt,'' Wagner said.
Wagner is quick to acknowledge the play of Seattle's defensive tackles as a big reason why he's been able to record so many stops.
Tony McDaniel, Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin have all done their part in occupying offensive linemen and keeping them from getting to the second level and blocking the linebackers.
Of the 657 total combined tackles recorded by Seattle's defense this season, Wagner and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright have been in on 195 of them – nearly 30 percent.
''He's an athlete,'' Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. ''Whenever you get an athlete in space you just allow them be who they are.''
NOTES: Seattle will likely be down two starters in its secondary with FS Earl Thomas and CB DeShawn Shead both unlikely to play because of hamstring injuries. Carroll was pessimistic about their availability on Wednesday. Steven Terrell would start in place of Thomas, with the combo of Jeremy Lane and Neiko Thorpe filling in for Shead. … Seattle signed RB George Farmer off the practice squad on Wednesday for additional depth in the backfield. Farmer takes the spot on the 53-man roster vacated by the release of OL J'Marcus Webb on Tuesday. … DE Michael Bennett continues to recover from knee surgery earlier this month and won't be able to make it back this week against his former team, Carroll said. Bennett should be available next week when Seattle hosts Carolina.
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