Prior to 2022, Seattle was the only franchise Wagner ever knew. He'd joined the Seahawks as a second-round pick in 2012 and became an All-Pro linebacker by his third season, launching a career that saw him earn annual Pro Bowl bids from 2014-2021. In that span, he garnered six All-Pro selections and even finished fifth in MVP voting in 2014.
He'll meet Seattle -- a team that released him in the offseason a few months shy of his 32nd birthday -- on Sunday.
"It's just another game," Wagner told reporters Wednesday. "It's just the game coming up played in our stadium against a team that's pretty good."
Wagner's departure for the Rams was supposed to be a triumphant next step for a Hall of Fame-caliber linebacker that was discarded by his team. Seattle knew it was time to turn over the roster toward a younger future, but Wagner's decision to sign with the Rams -- a division rival of the Seahawks and defending Super Bowl champions -- was at least a little personal.
Unfortunately for Wagner, his 2022 tale hasn't gone as planned. Instead of making another run at a Super Bowl, the Rams have been decimated by injuries and a lack of depth, falling from title contenders to last place in the NFC West at 3-8.
There's little reason to believe things will turn around for the Rams in 2022, which is headed toward a repeat of how 2021 finished for Wagner and the Seahawks. But Sunday's game offers intrigue because of Wagner, one of the remaining star players who is healthy enough to play and the lone Ram who might have some extra motivation entering Week 13, even if he claims he's moved on.
Wagner has done an excellent job of downplaying the emotional element of Sunday's game. It isn't difficult for him, he said, because Seattle trained him to operate accordingly.
"It's pretty easy because like being a part of that organization that's kind of the method," Wagner said. "You never really make a game too big or too little. You never make like a Monday night game or Tuesday night game bigger or the opponent bigger because then it makes you inconsistent because you'll get up for one game but then you won't get up for the next game. So I'm personally just treating this game like it's a normal game."
Seattle has said nothing but good things about Wagner, taking the high road by showering him with praise and gratitude.
"We miss everything about him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "There's no replacing him. He was a unique, one-of-a-kind guy."
That one-of-a-kind guy will hope to lead his downtrodden team to an upset win over his former employer -- even if it's nothing more than another game to him.