Bobby Wagner has come full circle.
After 10 seasons in Seattle, including a Super Bowl victory, the six-time, first-team All-Pro selection at linebacker was cut for salary-cap purposes.
He signed last year with the Los Angeles Rams, for whom he was a second-team All-Pro with 140 tackles and a career-high six sacks.
But now Wagner is back in Seattle and ready to face the visiting Rams in Sunday’s NFL season opener.
With the Seahawks having switched their defensive alignment since Wagner’s departure, some question how much of an impact the 33-year-old can have.
“I could care less what people say. I know what I have and what I’m capable of,” Wagner said. “You hear the talk, but you just wait for that moment to prove yourself right.”
When Wagner signed with the Rams, he joined the defending Super Bowl champions, while the Seahawks had just traded Russell Wilson to Denver.
But the Seahawks surprised, making the playoffs last season as the Rams finished 5-12.
“He’s really confident and he’s in command of what he’s doing, maybe more now than ever,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Wagner. “We’ll see how it comes together.”
The Seahawks will be without safety Jamal Adams as he continues his recovery from a torn quadriceps tendon suffered in the 2022 season opener. Rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon, the No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft, is questionable with a lingering hamstring injury.
But wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle’s other first-round pick, is set to play despite having surgery to repair a slight fracture in his wrist two weeks ago.
While Wagner expects a happy homecoming, it won’t be one for Rams receiver Cooper Kupp.
Kupp, a native of Yakima, Wash., who starred at Eastern Washington University, has been ruled out of the game because of a hamstring injury.
Coach Sean McVay said the Rams are considering putting Kupp on injured reserve, which would cause him to miss the first four weeks of the season.
Kupp, the MVP of Super Bowl 56, injured his hamstring during training camp in early August, and he had a setback last week. He traveled to Minnesota over the weekend to see a specialist.
“Really not much more information,” McVay said. “Just dealing with some soft-tissue stuff, just trying to get him to feel back to normal. When that ends up occurring, we’ll have him back, but in the meantime, he will not be playing for us.”
Kupp missed the final eight games of last season with an ankle injury, finishing with 75 catches for 812 yards. He won the Triple Crown of receiving in 2021, leading the league in catches, yards receiving and receiving TDs.
“I think the most important thing is whenever he’s able to take the field, whether that be Week 2, whatever it is, as long as he’s able to have that return to performance, he’s feeling like the Cooper Kupp that we all know and love, and he’s got some clarity on, all right, what is really going on?” McVay said.
Without Kupp, quarterback Matthew Stafford’s targets will be Van Jefferson, newcomer Demarcus Robinson, Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua.
Rams rookie backup quarterback Stetson Bennett, who led Georgia to the past two college football national championships, will miss the game with a right shoulder injury. That leaves only Brett Rypien should Stafford go down.
Rams tight end Hunter Long (hamstring) also missed practice time this week.
– Field Level Media