SEATTLE (AP) — Just as they did at the start of the season, the fans in Seattle had the opportunity on Sunday to show one of the Seahawks' past greats what they felt about him.
Bobby Wagner was greeted with cheers and chants of his name while playing as an opponent in Seattle for the first time in his career, and he helped the struggling Los Angeles Rams take the playoff-hopeful home team to overtime.
“It’s fun playing in this stadium. We had a lot of great years,” Wagner said. “I’m grateful for the fans and the love that they showed. I’m grateful.”
Wagner and the Rams did their best to end Seattle's playoff chances before the Seahawks came through to win 19-16 in OT.
The Rams ended the season with the most losses ever by a defending Super Bowl champion, a lengthy list of major injuries and questions about the future of several players and coach Sean McVay, who has made no secret of listening to offers to work in broadcasting.
“Anything as it relates to what is going to happen with me, like I said, I’m not thinking about that right now,” McVay said. “I’m appreciative of the way these guys finished up the season.”
Wagner’s return had a much different feel from when former Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson made his return with Denver back in Week 1. Wilson was booed heavily. But Seahawks fans showed plenty of love to Wagner.
Wagner spent his first 10 seasons in Seattle, where he was a six-time All-Pro and one of the best defensive players in franchise history.
The appreciation Seattle fans have for Wagner — in contrast to Wilson, who alienated many before he was traded to the Broncos in the offseason — was most notable in the run-up to the game. While Wilson was jeered during the coin toss some four months ago, Wagner was greeted with a standing ovation and chants of “Bobby! Bobby!” as he walked out as the Rams' only representative for the coin flip.
“In the beginning and walking off the field, it’s always love here,” Wagner said. “It’s always been that way. It will forever be that way.”
Getting a chance to play in Seattle again was a source of motivation for Wagner. The last time he was on the turf at Lumen Field, he hobbled off with a sprained knee suffered in Week 17 last season.
He was released by the Seahawks in March in a salary cap move. Once he signed with the Rams, playing again in Seattle was a priority.
“There’s a lot of doubters, people that kind of wrote me off before this year. And I think I silenced some of those,” Wagner said. “But I think the biggest thing for me was getting hurt last year on this field. I didn’t want that to be my last play on this field. God is good. I’m blessed to be able to come out and finish all these games and thankful for everybody that helped me get to this point.
“I’m grateful. I’m excited, and healthy and ready to do again.”
Wagner didn’t quite have the same influence on the game as he did when the teams met last month at SoFi Stadium. In that game, Wagner had seven tackles, two sacks and an interception.
On Sunday, he again had seven tackles, including one for loss, but no game-changing plays. He took a moment to acknowledge a large group of fans who stayed near the Rams' tunnel as he walked off the field shortly after Jason Myers made the game-winning field goal in overtime.
“I saw him in pregame and we had some fun kind of punching at each other,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I thought he played really good again. He had some terrific plays today; bring out the best in him.”
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Tim Booth, The Associated Press