RENTON Bobby Wagner did something last week he hadn’t done in four years.
For the first time in more than 60 preseason, regular-season and playoff games, the All-Pro middle linebacker played without his Pro Bowl outside partner.
K.J. Wright was away from the team and out of town undergoing a medical “process” for an aching knee, coach Pete Carroll and Wright have said. Last week’s preseason win over Minnesota was the first time since Wright broke his foot in December 2013 and missed four games before returning for Seattle’s Super Bowl 48 win over Denver that season that Wagner had been on the field playing without Wright.
I mean, they don’t even come off the field for a play. Their value as a duo comes in their supreme athleticism and versatility to attack ball carriers in run defense on early downs and short-yardage situations, then cover receivers 30-plus yards down the field or blitz on passing downs. Base, nickel, whatever defense Seattle chooses, Wagner and Wright, 54 and 50, middle and weakside backer, are side by side in it.
Except last week against the Vikings.
Wright said upon his return to practice on Tuesday “it sucked” watching Wagner and his team play the Vikings without him.
Wagner felt the same way following Wednesday’s light practice for Friday’s exhibition at home against Kansas City.
“It’s a preseason game. But it’s definitely weird. You play with someone for six years, it’s definitely weird,” Wagner said. “But I’m glad to have him back.
“Definitely, you appreciate him. When you play with a guy for so long you have this unspoken communication between one another that’s developed for a period of time. So when he’s not in that position, you can tell. You actually have to say things that (otherwise) you can just look at him and be on the same page.”
Terence Garvin, a free agent signed from Washington in the offseason, played for Wright on the weakside against the Vikings. Wagner just about had more talking and traffic-copping before snaps in one night during the starting defense’s 1 1/2 quarters of action than he’s had to in the last six years with Wright there next to him.
“Just got to be little bit more vocal and communicate a little more,” Wagner said, “versus when he’s there, he knows what I’m think and he knows what he’s thinking. And we play fast.”
Without Wright last week, the Seahawks’ starting defense did not begin the game fast -- for the second time in an many exhibitions. Seattle allowed quarterback Sam Bradford and Minnesota to drive 76 yards in 13 plays. At least the Seahawks held the Vikings to a field goal; the previous game, at the Los Angeles Chargers, Philip Rivers led a 13-play drive to a touchdown against Seattle’s starters.
The Seahawks’ No.-1 defense has allowed preseason opponents to convert four times on five third downs on opening drives so far this month.
The renowned defense upon which this team has built its identity and its playoff-to-Super Bowls success the last five years has yet to be whole this month. Nickel back Jeremy Lane missed the preseason opener with a groin strain. He came back last week, just as Wright went out. Now Michael Wilhoite, the former San Francisco 49ers starter who has been the No.-1 strongside linebacker all month, has been out of practice all week. He appears unlikely to play against the Chiefs.
Wright said he wants familiar results from the Seahawks’ starting defense to begin showing up Friday.
“I just want to make sure we come out there this Friday and we put on that dominant performance that we are used to seeing, that the fans are used to seeing,” he said. “We want the first defense to go out there and get a turnover, get some big stops.
“So it will definitely come in time.”
Wagner isn’t worried about what the Seahawks’ defense has done so far this month, or will do Friday, or in next week’s preseason finale at Oakland.
He’s all about when the games get real. That’s Sept. 10, at Green Bay.
“To me, I think we just want to execute,” Wagner said. “We want to fly around. We want to have fun. We want to execute the defense. We want to get off the field, do well on third downs.
“But nobody cares about preseason. Ten years from now, you’re not going to tell me what I did in the preseason.”