RENTON — Bobby Wagner put on a helmet as the Seahawks took the field Tuesday for their first practice of minicamp.
But any thought that he’s changing his plan to show up but not practice while trying to get a new contract quickly melted away (fitting on what was the hottest day of the year so far for a Seahawks practice) as Wagner stepped to the side as the on-field work began.
Whether a new deal might be worked out anytime soon remains unclear.
Asked afterward about Wagner’s situation, coach Pete Carroll said, “We’ve agreed to not say anything about what is going on and where that is.’’
Wagner is representing himself and said last month he wants to be the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL, which means a contract topping the $17 million average the Jets handed C.J. Mosley to lure him away from the Ravens.
The best bet might be that a deal is done on the eve of training camp in late July, when Seattle has often finished extensions (such as Tyler Lockett and Duane Brown last year and Wagner and Russell Wilson in 2015).
But if Wagner’s future remains uncertain, some other aspects of Seattle’s linebacking corps got some clarity on Tuesday.
Here are three linebacker-related news items that stood out.
Seahawks expect Kendricks to be available in 2019
Mychal Kendricks has also been limited, dealing with a pectoral issue. He is apparently fully recovered from a knee injury suffered late last season.
But when the season rolls around, the Seahawks expect Kendricks to be on the field, even though he’s still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to an insider-trading charge last summer.
One sentencing hearing set for April was delayed, and records indicate no new sentencing date has been set.
Carroll said he couldn’t go into any specifics of Kendricks’ situation but did say the team expects him to be available. Carroll said Kendricks’ legal situation is “moving along, and he is real optimistic about how things are going.’’
Carroll has said a trio of Wagner, Wright and Kendricks for the two inside-linebacking spots would be as good as Seattle has been in his time as coach and the team will work on ways they could all be on the field at the same time.
Ben Burr-Kirven recovering from sports hernia surgery
Seattle drafted two linebackers among the first 142 picks — Utah’s Cody Barton and UW’s Ben Burr-Kirven — which some took at the time as Seattle beginning to prepare for the future.
Barton has been consistently on the field, but Burr-Kirven has not taken part in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Carroll on Tuesday confirmed why: Burr-Kirven recently had sports hernia surgery, saying it occurred “six weeks ago now. So he’s back running and he’s out, did the walk-throughs and stuff today, so he’s back, just not quite ready to do this workload.’’
That obviously leaves Burr-Kirven behind in learning the defense, though Carroll raved about the quick assimilation both Barton and Burr-Kirven made into the defense during rookie minicamp. And if Kendricks is indeed available, Seattle’s needs for its rookies to play this season won’t be as great.
Shaquem Griffin playing both weakside and strongside linebacker
Shaquem Griffin has been used in different roles this offseason after spending last year playing solely weakside linebacker.
Carroll defined exactly how Seattle wants to use Griffin this season, saying he’ll be a strongside linebacker in the base defense (when Seattle has four defensive linemen and three linebackers on the defense) and weakside linebacker in the nickel (when the Seahawks take out the strongside linebacker to put in an extra defensive back).
Those uses will allow Griffin to make better use of his skills and experience to cover running backs and tight ends and also rush the passer — and not call on him to play inside linebacker in primarily running situations.
“It’s been really a good deal for him,’’ Carroll said. “We see how much background he has on the edge. He’s played safety and outside linebacker, for the most part, in his career. He’s just more comfortable out there. That doesn’t mean that he can’t play behind the line of scrimmage. He’s gained a lot there, but you can see him on the edge, in space and coming off the edge and pressures and stuff like that, that it’s a good spot for him. So he’s had a very, very good offseason with us.’’
Barton and Burr-Kirven’s additions will make the battle for the linebacking spots that much more intense this year, particularly if Kendricks is indeed available. That will mean Griffin is going to have to show he can master more roles to assure he stays on the team for another season, as well.