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Bobby Wagner still feels at top of his game returning to Seahawks for 12th season

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Hanging on a wall of the Seattle Seahawks’ indoor practice facility is a banner listing the names of the players and coaches responsible for bringing the franchise the only Super Bowl title it owns.

Many of the players listed have moved on to other phases of their lives. Most of the coaches are no longer around either.

Bobby Wagner thinks about that on occasion when he sees that banner and has his name listed. He’s about to enter his 12th season in the NFL, is one of two active players remaining from that Super Bowl team 10 years ago, and the only one still wearing a Seahawks uniform.

The rarity of his longevity isn’t lost on Wagner, who is back with the Seahawks after a one-year sabbatical in Los Angeles, looking to put together what’s likely a final chapter to his career.

“When we’re in there, young guys will ask, 'who is left on that team?’ I didn’t have to look at the list. I know it’s me and Russell (Wilson). It’s been that way for a (couple) of years,” Wagner said. “It’s crazy. But also, as a rookie, I wanted to be one of the guys that lasted the longest regardless of name, regardless of the accolades. I wanted to be one of the people that could stand the test of time.”

For his 12th season, Wagner has returned to the familiarity that he’s known for most of his career. An opportunity at a reunion with the Seahawks became available last offseason as Seattle had uncertainty about Jordyn Brooks’ recovery from a major knee injury.

That means when the regular season begins on Sunday with the Seahawks hosting the Rams, No. 54 will be back in the middle of Seattle’s defensive huddle.

There are few players more beloved in the history of the franchise. For his play on the field. For his work in the community. Wagner’s one season spent with the Rams last season was the result of Seattle making a salary cap move, not a decision of Wagner’s volition.

When the opportunity to come back was presented, Wagner didn’t question it being the right move.

“I think this is the best we’ve been for Bobby,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s subtle. It would be hard for me to explain and make sense of it. I think we’re on it. He’s really confident and he’s in command of what he’s doing, maybe more now than ever. We’ll see how it comes together.”

Wagner’s return to Seattle might just be for one or two seasons, but it will be the final chapter to a resume that could be Hall of Fame worthy. He’s been a first-team All-Pro selection six times and a second-team selection three times, including last season with the Rams when he had 140 tackles and a career-high six sacks.

But he’s an old guy — age 33 — on a team that for the most part relies on youth. Seattle’s 14 rookies on its 53-man roster are third most in the league. The Seahawks have 33 players age 25 or younger and their average age is 25.95 years, fifth youngest in the league.

That youth means Wagner’s voice of experience is valued even more, despite the year away.

“At the end of the day I’ve still been in the league for 12 years so there’s a lot of bumps and bruises you could share,” Wagner said. “A lot of things that I’ve gone through that can maybe help speed up the process and make sure you don’t make the mistakes that maybe we made when we were young in the game and things of that nature.”

Wagner was one of the best middle linebackers in football a decade ago and has remained at the top of his craft during that period even as age has started to creep in.

His longevity and success is rooted in routine, something that was obvious to his teammates from the time he was a rookie.

“Honestly, since I’ve been here he is the most consistent person with routine — whether it’s studying film, practice, taking care of his body — that I’ve ever been around,” said former teammate and now Seattle assistant secondary coach DeShawn Shead.

“He’s just consistent with everything he does and it’s not surprising that this is a guy who may be a Hall of Famer.”

There are doubters who believe Wagner’s return to Seattle won’t be successful. The biggest unknown is how much his role might be different with Seattle playing a different defensive scheme than what he played most of his career with the Seahawks.

It seems unfair to expect Wagner to continue playing at an All-Pro level. In the past 25 years only Ray Lewis and Zach Thomas have been selected as an All-Pro at linebacker after age 32.

But that’s also motivation for Wagner.

“I could care less what people say. I know what I have and what I’m capable of,” Wagner said. “You hear the talk, but you just wait for that moment to prove yourself right.”

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