Bobby Wagner graduates to helmet-wearing, still not practicing at Seahawks minicamp, awaiting new deal
Bobby Wagner’s quasi-protest has progressed. To helmet-wearing.
But the All-Pro linebacker still isn’t practicing. Not until he gets his new contract from the Seahawks.
Jarran Reed is practicing. The 10 1/2-sack defensive tackle did that for the first time since January. He had surgery to fix a sports hernia earlier this offseason.
Don’t expect new top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah to be on the field until deep into August, if then.
Do expect Mychal Kendricks to get through his prison-sentencing process for admitted insider trading well enough to be on the team this season.
That was the news from coach Pete Carroll Tuesday. The first day of veteran minicamp, the final three days of of official offseason workouts before training camp, had more notable events than the usual football practice in early June.
Wagner was on the field for the start of the only mandatory event of the Seahawks’ offseason, just as he was for all 10 of the team’s voluntary organized team activities the past month, plus conditioning workouts that began in April.
The eighth-year veteran said last month he does not want to get injured entering the final year of his contract while still without an extension both player and team expect he will get, to make him the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL.
“This is a business,” he said in May. “You get hurt, they are going to cut you.”
Tuesday, Wagner put on a helmet, just as his participating teammates did. He continued to coach the younger linebackers through drills. At one point he joked and playfully bumped into Bradley McDougald. Seattle’s starting strong safety is also not practicing following knee surgery this offseason.
Wagner is in all the defense’s pre- and post-practice meetings. He even joined in the linebackers’ huddles between drills.
He continues to do just about everything except practice.
It’s likely to stay that way until at least the start of training camp. That’s when he and the Seahawks are expected to finalize a contract that pays him more than the out-of-nowhere $17 million per year the New York Jets gave less-accomplished C.J. Mosley this offseason.
Wagner has said that is the number, Mosley’s deal, he is seeking to eclipse in his new contract.
Austin Calitro, Wagner’s backup, continues to play on the starting defense in offseason practices. Justin Currie, a free agent the team signed last year, is getting a lot of time at outside linebacker for veteran K.J. Wright, who is resting and also mentoring this spring.
Carroll continued to approve on how Wagner is handling his odd situation, being here but not fully here.
“He’s handling it beautifully,” Carroll said. “Bobby’s an incredible player in this program. Everything that he does, his presence is obvious. He’s been around for everything. He’s been involved with everything. He’s handled it exactly the way he should, under these circumstances.”
Carroll declined to give a progress report on contract talks that are ongoing between the team and Wagner, who is representing himself without an agent for this third deal with Seattle.
“We’ve agreed to not say anything about what’s going on, where that is,” the coach said.
The best news Seattle had Tuesday: After doing conditioning drills on side fields through OTAs, Reed practiced fully with his teammates for the first time since before the season-ending playoff loss at Dallas Jan. 5.
With Ansah out indefinitely, Seattle at least has half of its top pass-rushing duo for 2019 on the field now.
“This is the first chance he’s had to get back out there...just the fact he was out there, it was fun to see him out there,” Carroll said of Reed, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Ansah, 30, warmed up with his new teammates at the start of Tuesday’s practice. Then the former Pro Bowl defensive end for the Detroit Lions again did conditioning work on his own instead of practicing.
Carroll said it may be well into training camp, well into perhaps late August, before Ansah gets on the field to test his surgically repaired shoulder.
“We have a really specific plan set up for him,” Carroll said of the six weeks between the end of minicamp Thursday and the start of training camp.
The coach said during that vacation time across the NFL Ansah will be at team headquarters working with the Seahawks’ athletic trainers and medical staff to strengthen the shoulder for testing sometime in the preseason. That is, except for a stretch of time Ansah is going home to Ghana to be with family there.
“We’ll take the camp to get it done, I’m sure. We’re not going to rush him,” Carroll said of testing Ansah’s shoulder. “There won’t be any need to start him up right out of the chutes. We’ll see how he goes in the weeks to follow.”
“He’s picking up the scheme. He’s in the walk-throughs and all that stuff, today he was, so he’s able to get the huddle calls and make the huddle calls and adjustments. He’s going to be really good at all that kind of stuff. What we know mostly, from watching and playing against him, is the kind of competitor and the tough guy that he is, and the effort guy that he is. So we are counting on all of that coming back.
“Right now, he’s working really hard. He’s doing great in his process of coming back. It’s just a matter of strength-gaining for the shoulder. The shoulder’s healed, and all that. So it’s just making sure that we don’t come back too soon, and that his recovery is for good.”
Kendricks did outside linebacker drills again Tuesday, then rested during team scrimmaging. Shaquem Griffin has been the other first-team outside linebacker this spring.
Kendricks is fully recovered from surgery in December on his leg and knee. He re-signed this spring while still pending a sentencing hearing in federal court in Pennsylvania. That hearing has been postponed three times and now indefinitely.
“Everything is moving along, and he’s real optimistic about how things are going,” Carroll said of the starting linebacker for Philadelphia in the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
“We do expect him to be on the team this year.”
Rookie Blair out
Rookie Marquise Blair has a chance to be the starting strong safety this season.
That’s why the Seahawks traded out of the first round then drafted Blair in the second round, because of the potential fit for the hard-hitting tackler from the University of Utah.
But Blair hasn’t practiced the last two weeks, from the final OTAs through Tuesday’s start to minicamp. Carroll was talking to him on the field before the latest practice began.
Carroll said Blair has a hamstring injury. He first felt it in OTAs about two weeks ago.
The coach’s comments about Blair being out hinted at how much the Seahawks want to see from him, to determine whether he may indeed win a starting job this preseason.
“It’s unfortunate, too. For the young guys, these practices are SO important to them,” the coach said. “We miss the opportunity to learn them, and they miss the chance to pick up on stuff and gets reps and all that. So it’s unfortunate.”
If Blair proves ready to tackle NFL ball carriers and cover receivers right away this preseason, the Seahawks could move McDougald to free safety, where he has played well for them before, when now-gone Earl Thomas was hurt.
The team does not seem sold on Tedric Thompson, their fourth-round pick from 2017, as the long-term answer to replace Thomas at free safety, at least not yet.
They wouldn’t have traded down and drafted Blair so highly this spring if they were. Plus, McDougald has two years remaining on his contract. He turns 29 in November.