Bobby Wagner – Playing the Seattle Seahawks twice a year “the icing on the cake”, is not a reason to join the Los Angeles Rams

All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner says he has “no hatred” for the Seattle Seahawks, but still believes they should have handled his release differently.

And he sees the chance to play against his former team twice a year as a nice bonus to signing with the Los Angeles Rams, even if it wasn’t the reason he joined division rival Seattle. .

“A lot of people think that influenced my decision to be able to play against the Seahawks,” Wagner said Monday during his introductory videoconference with the Rams. “I don’t have so much hate in my heart. I think I really wanted to be happy and I wanted to be close to home and stay on the west coast. That was important to me. But playing the Seahawks twice a an was the icing on the cake, and I’ll make sure they see me every time we play them. They’ll know where I’m at and I’ll make sure to tell them. It’s not going to be a quiet game for me. “

Wagner spoke to reporters for the first time since signing a five-year, $50 million deal with the defending Super Bowl champions last week. A source told ESPN that the deal, which Wagner brokered himself, includes $20 million in guarantees as well as incentives that give him the opportunity to earn up to $23.5 million over the two early seasons.

Wagner, 31, became a free agent for the first time in his career when the Seahawks released him last month, ending a 10-year run in Seattle that included eight Pro Bowls, six All-Pro selections from the first team, a Super Bowl championship and a franchise-record 1,383 tackles.

And a messy breakup.

The Seahawks informed Wagner he was being released before ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news, but Wagner had already heard of the team’s plan to move to younger players at inside linebacker. He expressed his outrage via Twitter and directly to the team.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were both blamed for mishandling communication. Carroll said he was holding on as long as possible, hoping there would be a way for Seattle to keep Wagner. Schneider said the organization owed Wagner better while noting a complicating factor in the situation – that he didn’t have the usual “buffer” that an agent provides between the team and the player because Wagner represents himself.

The Seahawks have not discussed a new contract with Wagner.

“I personally think after 10 years, I think it’s just communication,” Wagner said. “I don’t think it had to be that hard. I watched their interview. I saw their apologies and I’m grateful. But when they said it was because I was representing myself, I had the felt like that part was weak. …Whether I had an agent or didn’t have an agent, I still feel like that was a conversation they could have had. kinda where I’m at. I’m not going to dwell on that. … They’ve already moved on. I’ve moved on, so that’s how it is at this point. I just think that ‘after 10 years, it could have been a simple conversation, even if they wanted to go in another direction. I don’t think that the fact that I represented myself played a role on my end. It’s rather on their end. Maybe they didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to kind of burn that bridge. But I feel like throughout this process and the last dealing [negotiating his record $54 million extension in 2019], I showed the ability to handle the difficult conversations that we had, the difficult conversations throughout my 10 years of career there. So it’s easy to just pick up the phone.

“I shouldn’t have had to find out how I found out. But like I said, it is what it is. I ended up in a great place.”

Wagner, a 2012 Seahawks second-round pick, said he never thought he was going to leave Seattle and “always wanted” to be there. As soon as the Seahawks released him, he had to separate the emotions he felt as a player from the job he knew he had to do as his own agent.

“The player took it personally, but the agent got down to business,” he said. “So I just started calling teams and reaching out to teams. I think a lot of teams didn’t know I was representing myself. So I reached out to teams to make sure they knew that I was the person they were going to contact directly and kind of start the process from there It was really stressful because like I said you’ve been in a place for 10 years and there was this idea that you didn’t think you were going to leave and unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but I ended up in a great place, closer to home and I’m excited.”

Wagner is from Ontario, California, about 50 miles east of SoFi Stadium. He still has family in the area, including a nephew who is a senior at his alma mater, Colony High School.

General manager Les Snead said the Rams “didn’t really anticipate the opportunity” to sign Wagner. When they found out he was interested in playing in Los Angeles, Snead said they had internal discussions about how they could reunite Wagner and fellow inside linebacker Ernest Jones on the field, not wanting that Up-and-coming Jones is losing playing time. Snead said they encouraged Wagner to take the time he needed to talk and visit other teams, and told him they would be patient on their end.

Snead had long regarded Wagner as the one who got away. The Rams wanted him in the second or third round in 2012 under then-coach Jeff Fisher, who was a huge fan. Seattle beat them to the punch. This missed opportunity gave way to a new organizational philosophy of being more aggressive about the potential projects they really want. They call it “The Bobby Wagner Rule”.

“About a thousand tackles later,” Snead said, “we get Bobby Wagner.”

Wagner joins wide receiver Allen Robinson II as big names on the roster that won Super Bowl LVI in February. But the Rams also suffered many significant subtractions. Coach Sean McVay said part of the appeal with Wagner is that he’s helping fill the leadership void created by the departures of left tackle Andrew Whitworth (retiring), outside linebacker Von Miller (at Buffalo Bills in free agency) and safety Eric Weddle (retired).

“There are a few guys in this league that you are lucky enough to go to after games because you respect their job, the way they approach it not only physically but also mentally, and Bobby has always been one of these guys,” McVay mentioned. “Just a lot of respect for everything he’s been asked to do in that defensive system. It’s definitely an advantage not having to play against him. He’s one of those guys who can fit in in any type of system.

Wagner was asked if he thinks his relationship with the Seahawks will eventually mend.

“At some point,” he said. “I have no hatred for Seattle. I have no hatred for the Seahawks. I think Pete, John, [Jody Allen, the team’s de facto owner]. All these guys, they’re amazing. They treated me well while I was there. So, as I said, I have no hatred in my heart. Didn’t I appreciate how they handled this? I texted them. I let them know that I didn’t appreciate the way they had gone about it. So that’s what it is. It’s not something I’m going to sit here and use as motivation. Whether I play elsewhere or play there, I am a motivated person. I don’t need any extra motivation.

“But this game in Seattle will definitely be interesting, that’s for sure.”