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Bobby Wagner: From berated, doubted by Seahawks before 2012 draft to NFL’s highest-paid middle linebacker

When Bobby Wagner was making the rounds to NFL teams before the 2012 draft, the departing senior linebacker from Utah State had his worst visit of all with Seattle.

First came a sit-down with then-Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton, which was embarrassing.

“He probably lowered my guard down,” Wagner said of Norton, now Oakland’s defensive coordinator, following Sunday’s training-camp practice at the Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “We watched probably 40 plays (from Utah State). The first five were the best plays I’ve ever seen at Utah State. The next 35 were THE WORST plays I had at Utah State.

“He just killed me. Every, single play. He’s a great dude. I appreciate him. I’ve got to thank him. He definitely made me the player that I am.”

The player Wagner now is, after he signed his $43 million, four-year contract extension with the Seahawks late Saturday night, is the highest-paid middle linebacker in NFL history.

But before that, he was almost a Seahawks reject.

After Norton shredded Wagner to his face in that pre-draft film session in the spring of 2012, the young linebacker went to see John Schneider. The Seahawks GM told Wagner the team’s doctors wanted more, extensive tests on the player’s kidneys.

Wagner revealed Sunday “my kidneys don’t function as well as they should.”

Imagine how good Wagner would be with perfectly functioning kidneys.

He has now become what he wrote in a notebook during his senior year at Utah State, a notebook he still keeps as motivation. In it four years ago he wrote: “Be the best linebacker in the NFL. Be the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL.”

An ode to the power of goal-setting.


--Team owner Paul Allen -- who was active on Twitter last Saturday disseminating the first official news of Wagner’s signing and then a picture of Wagner and Schneider signing the papers in team headquarters -- met on the field with his GM and coach Pete Carroll immediately after a two-hour practice. The first day in shoulder pads was heavy on situational team drills such as the 2-minute offense.

--Kam Chancellor finished the third day of his holdout, meaning the team could fine him up to $90,000 and counting for staying away to protest a contract that is paying the thumping strong safety and team leader $4.45 million guaranteed this season. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was the latest teammate to say he fully supports Chancellor’s stance.

Carroll said after practice now that the extensions for Russell Wilson and Wagner are done, the team is putting all effort toward getting Chancellor into camp. The two deals had to happen before the Seahawks could see what it could do, if anything, for Chancellor.

--I asked Sherman if he could fathom fellow All-Pro Earl Thomas missing a real game; many are speculating the free safety won’t be recovered from his shoulder surgery on Feb. 24 in time to play when Seattle opens at St. Louis Sept. 13.

“I could not...that’d be a crazy idea,” Sherman said.

He noted Thomas has yet to miss any of 80 regular-season games or 10 postseason ones since entering the NFL as Seattle’s first-round pick in 2010. Sherman also noted Thomas isn’t the kind of person to want to end that streak now.

--The biggest cheers from another sun-splashed crowd of a couple thousand watching practice came after it, when Marshawn Lynch ambled over to the front row of fans standing behind a metal barrier and signed autographs -- while wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up on the 83-degree afternoon.

--Drew Nowak, a former college defensive lineman who was a guard on Seattle’s practice squad last season, continues to alternate with Lemuel Jeanpierre as first-team center. But after practice Carroll said if the Seahawks had to play a game tomorrow Jeanpierre would be the starter. Patrick Lewis and rookie draft choice Kristjan Sokoli, a defensive tackle at the University of Buffalo, continue to alternate as backup centers.

--Brandon Mebane was stuffing running plays with quick moves inside Nowak during a running-play drill. Saturday Mebane said he’s felt 100-percent healthy since April after the nose tackle tore his hamstring in November. The 30-year old also said he feels like he’s “25 or 24.”

Sunday Carroll gushed: “Gosh, he looks great.”

Mebane’s rebound, the commitment to Ahtyba Rubin -- this spring’s free-agent defensive tackle signing after six seasons of him starting for Cleveland as a guard-gap, “3-technique” defensive tackle -- plus the way Jordan Hill was playing for Mebane at the end of last regular season before his calf injury ended his postseason are why Seattle released Tony McDaniel Sunday morning in a salary-cap move.

--Top rookie draft choice Frank Clark was quick off the ball and through the guard-center gap during that same running-play drill. The second-round pick from Michigan is usually an outside, rush end. But the Seahawks are trying him as an inside tackle on certain downs, like they used Michael Bennett to great results last season. Like Bennett was in 2014, Clark was just too fast for guards and centers today in that drill.

--Chancellor’s half-brother Keenan Lambert, an undrafted rookie strong safety, broke into the backfield during that same portion of practice and threw down rookie left guard Terry Poole, the team’s fourth-round draft choice who is five inches taller and 114 pounds heavier than Lambert.

Carroll called Lambert “a hammer” -- which is what Chancellor is for Seattle.

--Doug Baldwin looked fast today, making catches while zooming past defensive back Steven Terrell and Triston Wade.

--Douglas McNeill made big catches deep down the field for the second consecutive day. Early in a 2-minute drill with the second-team offense, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound wide receiver signed as a free agent last year from Bowie State University outside his hometown of Baltimore made a leaping catch along the sideline over Terrell, the first-team free safety while Earl Thomas rehabilitates from shoulder surgery.

“He’s doing stuff every day,” Carroll said of McNeil, who joined Seattle’s practice squad near the end of last season. “Now we just have to see the consistency.”

Wide receiver is as packed as any position on the team in a race for roster spots. Seattle usually keeps six, though it started the 2014 regular season carrying seven.

--Fullback Derrick Coleman, a special-teams ace Seattle missed dearly after he broke his foot last October, is likely to miss a week or more of Seahawks training camp. Injured hamstring in one of the first drills of camp on Friday.

--Rookie seventh-round pick Ryan Murphy, the strong safety from Oregon State, was on his back during the final plays of practice getting leg cramps worked on. Murphy missed the team’s rookie minicamp and organized team activities in May and June because his class in Corvallis had yet to graduate, so he’s somewhat behind in the Seahawks’ system and in football shape.

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