They spent 10 years on the same team, reading each other’s line of scrimmage during hundreds of drills.
Six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson helped the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl and four NFC West titles.
But on the same day last March, Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos and Wagner was fired and eventually signed with the Rams.
They will face off in a game for the first time on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Wagner said this week that the matchup would be “an improved version” of a Seattle non-contact workout, where the pace was at full throttle but the batting wasn’t.
“You could never touch him,” Wagner said of Wilson. “He said I would never catch him, so we’ll see.”
Wagner, 32, was one of the lone bright spots for the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention in Monday’s 24-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Wagner has the best 119 tackles, five sacks and an interception.
“He’s still one of the best players in the league,” said Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett. “You can see your knowledge. You can see him playing with his eyes, using his vision to bring the quarterback and the different concepts together.
“He saw every concept. … No matter how hard you try to deceive him, you cannot. He’s such an intelligent player.”
Wilson, 34, has struggled during a 4-10 season. He’s completed just 60% of his passes, 11 for touchdowns with six interceptions. Wilson suffered a concussion following a December 11 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and was disqualified from last Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals.
He will play against the Rams.
“Bobby probably knows Russell as well as anyone,” Rams defense coordinator Raheem Morris said. “What he can do, what he can’t do… some of the things he doesn’t like and all those kinds of things.
“But I’m sure Russell has the same kind of stuff about Bobby Wagner. So the two of them have a nice little chess match.”
Wagner is looking forward to taking on Wilson and he has clear memories of their playful exchanges as teammates.
“A lot of the trash talk would be like, ‘You’re lucky you’re wearing a red jersey, we can’t touch you,'” Wagner said, referring to the color, which means hands off for defensive players. “Now he’s wearing a Broncos jersey so it should be fun.”
Does Wagner have an advantage for watching Wilson for so long?
“To an extent,” Wagner said. “If you see someone for 10 years, you sort of know what they like and don’t like.
“But he’s evolved as a player and especially when he moved there there are little things he does differently. …Once you get going and start hitting and all that other stuff, it slows down. The concepts he likes and the things he enjoys doing will come to him [the] Surface and hopefully we can take advantage of those things.”
For all the moments they shared as teammates, Wagner said what stands out about Wilson is the person, not the player.
“He gets a lot of rap for a lot of things, but he was an extremely amazing person,” Wagner said. “All the stuff he did at church every week. I mean, whatever the situation, he was always in the children’s hospital.
“I know that was inspirational for me and a lot of the guys. … He does all the things that he does to help people on a daily basis. … His generosity, those were some of the things he’s done off the game and all the fantastic things on the field.
The Rams didn’t practice Thursday, instead conducting two walk-throughs. … The Rams designated offensive lineman Chandler Brewer (knee) to return to practice from injured reserve. Receivers Lance Lenoir and Jerreth Sterns were enlisted in the practice squad.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-12-22/rams-bobby-wagner-broncos-russell-wilson Rams’ Bobby Wagner wants to catch up with Russell Wilson