Los Angeles Times
Wagner signals a change in defense
The former Seahawks linebacker is on Rams’ side now and already having an influence on his new teammates.
During his decorated career with the Seattle Seahawks, six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner learned to easily make adjustments on the field.
So, a helmetless Wagner looked completely comfortable Tuesday in the middle of the Rams defense with a walkie-talkie in hand.
Wagner, accustomed to one-way, in-helmet radio communication to relay defensive signals, had looked forward to rare two-way conversation via the walkietalkie. But his efforts to respond to coordinator Raheem Morris’ “trash talk” proved fruitless, Wagner said.
“I tried — they cut that portion out,” Wagner joked after a practice that was essentially a two-hour walkthrough. “They must have knew I was going to say something back. I tried to hold the button and I didn’t get no static back.”
Wagner, 32, is expected to provide clear communication, experience and playmaking ability for a defense that aims to help the Rams repeat as Super Bowl champion.
In 10 seasons with the Seahawks, Wagner won a Super Bowl and played in another. He was released in March on the same day the Seahawks traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.
Wagner, a former Ontario Colony High star, agreed to terms with the Rams a few weeks later.
The Rams will not be in pads until later in training camp, but Wagner made his presence felt last spring during organized team activities, outside linebacker Justin Hollins said.
“Oh man, he’s incredible,” Hollins said, adding, “Just to see some of the little things he does day in and day out, the way he works. It’s amazing and I feel like when we put these pads on, I’m going to learn a lot.”
During the next few weeks, Morris and coach Sean McVay will try to find ways to maximize Wagner’s talent as the Rams prepare for the Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.
McVay spent the last five seasons scheming against Wagner.
“I don’t know if there was any weaknesses to exploit,” McVay said.
“You’re really just trying to find ways to eliminate the impact that he has on the game.”
Wagner has been an elite run-stopper throughout his career and the Rams will expand on what Wagner provided the Seahawks, McVay said.
“There are some subtleties and some different things that we’ll be asking of him as it relates to blitzing and some of the coverage responsibilities,” McVay said.
Wagner is part of an inside linebacker corps that includes second-year pro Ernest Jones and veteran Travin Howard, who is sidelined following surgery for a groin injury.
Wagner will be in the middle of a defense that also includes star lineman Aaron Donald and star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
“They had a way established way before I got here, so for me it’s my job to try and understand everybody that’s around and understand the way they’ve done things over the years, and just add a little bit of experience when needed,” Wagner said.
Wagner said he has been struck by the closeness of Rams players and coaches.
“The accountability is off the charts,” he said. “I think because you have that cohesiveness and everybody being close, it allows you to get checked when you need to get checked, and you don’t take it personally because you know the guys that’s checking you wants the best for you.
“That’s the symbol of a great team.”
McVay said the light workout, with focus on the mental part of the game, enabled players “a way to get their legs back underneath them.” … Tackle Rob Havenstein, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson and center Brian Allen were among players given all or most of the day off. … The Rams will practice Wednesday and take Thursday off before their first public workout Friday.