RENTON Signs are Bobby Wagner is going to try to play in the Seahawks’ biggest regular-season game in years--but that K.J. Wright will not be able to join him.
Wagner did “good work” on the side but did not participate in practice again Friday, coach Pete Carroll said two days before Seattle (8-5) hosts the Los Angeles Rams (9-4) for the NFC West title at CenturyLink Field. The All-Pro middle linebacker is officially listed as questionable to play because of a strained hamstring he got early in the third quarter of last weekend’s loss at Jacksonville. Wagner did not practice at all this week.
“He did some good stuff (Friday) in rehab,” Carroll said. “And he’ll run (Saturday), and we’ll take it to game time.”
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The Seahawks have listed 46 players as questionable on Fridays this season. Of those, 35 have played on Sunday (76 percent).
Wright also did not practice Friday or all week. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker got a concussion, also in the third quarter at Jacksonville. The team lists Wright as doubtful. Carroll said Wright remains in the NFL’s five-stage concussion protocol.
The fact Wright hasn’t practiced even on a limited basis this week strongly suggest he is too far in the middle rather than end of the league’s protocol to play on Sunday. The NFL requires doctors to clear concussed players to do limited work at practice (stage four) then full participation with all football activity (stage five) before they will clear a player from the protocol to play in a game.
“I don’t know. It’s up to the doctors,” Carroll said when asked if there’s enough days left before the game for Wright to pass the protocol. “We really don’t have any say in that, at all.”
So usual special-teams player Terence Garvin is likely to start at weakside, “Will” linebacker for Wright on Sunday in Seattle’s 4-3 set. Garvin practiced there all week.
“I feel like I’m going to play my position, the ‘Will’ position, what they ask for me to do,” said Garvin, who was a reserve inside linebacker last year in Washington’s 3-4 defense. “Just play my play, make my plays.”
Wagner and Wright are the fourth and fifth Pro Bowl players on Seattle’s defense to be either out or injured. Cornerback Richard Sherman, strong safety Kam Chancellor and end Cliff Avril are out for the season because of major Achilles, neck and neck injuries, respectively.
Rams featured back Todd Gurley is the center of Los Angeles’ offense that is second in the league in scoring at more than 30 points per game. Rams coach Sean McVay has said this week Gurley will be a renewed focus to get more runs at Seattle than the 13 carries he got--for 96 yards--last weekend in Los Angeles’ 43-35 home loss to Philadelphia.
If Wright and especially Wagner aren’t playing Sunday, McVay may be tempted to have quarterback Jared Goff hand the ball or throw to Gurley 30 times. Gurley has 51 catches for the Rams, second on the team to rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s 56.
Gurley has 53.8 yards rushing per game and 6.2 yards receiving average with just one touchdown in four games against Seattle. That is the lowest of his three-year career against any team he’s faced more than once. That’s been with Wagner and Wright both playing. Both linebackers uniquely skilled with the speed to stay with Gurley on his down-field pass routes and stout enough to take on blockers and Gurley near the line of scrimmage to limit his runs. Take out either Wagner or Wright and the Seahawks could have many more problems with Gurley and the Rams’ offense than they did while winning 16-10 in L.A. on Oct. 8.
Take out Wagner, or both, and the Seahawks’ season could be in serious jeopardy.
FiveThirtyEight.com says if Seattle wins Sunday it has a 79-percent chance to make the playoff--and if the Seahawks lose their playoff chances drop to 19 percent.
Expect the ultra-competitive and hugely important Wagner to at least try to play. Whether he will be able to on a hamstring he re-strained after not practicing for the last month because of it may be a different, possibly decisive matter.
I asked Carroll if he expected his centerpiece to a decimated defense to try to start Sunday’s game, no matter his pain and limitations.
“Well,” Carroll said with a wry grin, “he’s trying.”