Rookie LB Wagner excelling, and more

Staff writerDecember 7, 2012 

RENTON — Sometimes he hears the booming, baritone voice of linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. just as he enters the training facility in the morning.

Seahawks rookie Bobby Wagner doesn’t mind.

“We’ve got a good relationship,” Wagner said about his position coach. “He gets on me 24/7, nonstop. There was even a day when I walked into the facility and it wasn’t even two seconds before he got on something like ‘Why are your shoes not tied!’

“It could be anything. But I know it’s all fun, and he’s trying to help me grow as a player. I respect him a lot.”

Seattle’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft has proved to be a quick study.

In 12 games, Wagner has already reached the century mark for tackles, joining an exclusive list that includes such franchise standouts as linebackers Keith Butler and Lofa Tatupu, and safety Kenny Easily.

And with four games to go, Wagner has a chance to surpass those names as Seattle’s leading rookie tackler.

Wagner tops the Seahawks with 100 tackles, just 36 short of the record of 136 set by Terry Beeson in his rookie season in 1977.

“He’s a first-year guy, but he acts and plays like a fourth-year guy,” Norton said. “He sees the field well, and he has really good instincts. That’s what really sets him apart – he can kind of feel things happen before they happen.

“He’s kind of a gym-rat kind of a kid. He wants to be good. And he’s willing to make the sacrifices that it takes. So when you know that about a guy, you’re not surprised he’s doing well at all.”

The Utah State product averages 9.4 tackles a game, posting double-digit tackles in four of his past seven games.

When he first joined the team, outside linebacker and second-year pro K.J. Wright made the adjustments defensively while Wagner learned the system. But Wagner gradually took over the play-calling duties during the season, and got to the point that he was so comfortable that he evolved into a three-down linebacker, remaining on the field in passing situations.

Now that he feels more comfortable, Wagner said his next step is generating more game-changing plays. Wagner has two sacks and one interception this season.

“I definitely feel like I can make a lot more plays that get us off the field, or plays that kind of change the game,” Wagner said. “So that’s definitely something I’m trying to work on for the remainder of the season.”

Wagner got sick on his scheduled pro day before the draft and had to reschedule, so Norton was unable to attend.

However, Norton did watch a lot of tape from Wagner’s playing days at Utah State.

“I saw a guy that really cared,” Norton said. “You could tell that he was a fantastic athlete – really fast and really strong on the bench.

“But what really stood out to me was his work ethic on the field, as far as game film. He was always flying around the ball, never tired. Late in the game he was still flying around the ball. He played bigger than his size. He had a lot of juice. He was running through people. And he was really light on his feet. He had a few things that I could work with.”

Wagner is five tackles behind Tatupu (105), whom Norton is very familiar with after coaching him at USC and Seattle.

Norton said there are some similarities between the two.

“Lofa, he’s kind of high in my books,” Norton said, laughing. “But he has a lot of stuff that Lofa has. Lofa was extremely smart – he could see one thing for a minute and remember it forever.

“(Wagner’s) not quite there in that respect, but this kid has things Lofa doesn’t have. He has the speed. He has the athletic ability. He has the want-to, and he’s been productive. What we see now is just the beginning. He’s got a lot more to give us.”

EXTRA POINTS

Safety Kam Chancellor was a surprise addition to the team’s injury report on Thursday. Chancellor did not practice because of a groin injury. Along with Chancellor, defensive end Red Bryant (foot) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring) did not practice for a second straight day. Linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) and center Max Unger (hip) were limited participants. And running back Marshawn Lynch (back) and receiver Sidney Rice (head) were full participants. … The Seahawks added cornerback Chandler Fenner to the practice squad on Thursday. Fenner originally signed with Kansas City after this year’s draft in April. He played in four exhibition games, finishing with six solo tackles before being released after training camp. In college, Fenner played in 44 career games at Holy Cross, finishing his career with 158 tackles.

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams

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