Bobby Wagner is ready for another homecoming.
The veteran linebacker and Ontario native experienced one last March when he signed with the Rams after he was unceremoniously released by the Seattle Seahawks.
Wagner returns to Seattle on Sunday when the Rams play the Seahawks at Lumen Field in the regular-season finale.
Wagner has strong emotions about the team that shaped him as a player and a city that shaped him as man.
“It will be fun to go back there,” Wagner said, “be back in front of those fans.”
In September, fans at Lumen field consistently booed Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, who was traded to the Denver Broncos by the Seahawks on the same day they released Wagner.
But it would be surprising if Wagner is not embraced by fans that watched him become a six-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion during his 10 seasons with the Seahawks.
Wagner, 32, was selected by the Seahawks in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft after playing at Utah State. He considers Seattle a second home.
“That’s really where I grew up and they accepted me,” he said. “They showed a lot of love and so I’m forever grateful.”
Wagner repeatedly has said that he harbors no ill will toward Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and team ownership. But Wagner clearly wants to show his former employer that they erred by letting him go.
That was evident in Wagner’s emotional and productive performance against the Seahawks on Dec. 4 at SoFi Stadium. Wagner made seven tackles, had two sacks and intercepted a pass in a 27-23 defeat.
The typically reserved Wagner was animated throughout the game, jawing with former teammates on the field and the sideline.
“When you’re playing your family member that knows your deepest, darkest secrets and knows exactly what to say to you to make you feel a certain type of way, and also you’re playing the organization that you feel gave up on you, so it was warranted to be honest,” he said. “And then again, I’m playing against people I know how to push their buttons too, so I know exactly what to say to them to make them mad and I did that.”
Now Wagner plays the Seahawks with a chance to ruin their bid for a playoff spot. The Seahawks can make the postseason if they defeat the Rams, and the Detroit Lions beat or tie the Green Bay Packers.
“To be in a position to spoil their playoff hopes is always a good position,” Wagner said. “Something worth playing for.”
Rams teammates have been vocal in their desire to win the game for Wagner.
“The way he was let go, I feel like was not right,” linebacker Ernest Jones said. “I definitely want him to get the last say, to get that last ha-ha against Seattle.”
Jones, 23, said he watches everything Wagner does. The second-year pro was not intimidated by Wagner’s arrival, and knew their pairing would be “a match made in heaven.”
“What I’ve learned this year is everything that I thought I was doing — it wasn’t enough, it’s more to be done,” Jones said. “I’ve always said to myself that I want to be just like him. … I’m excited to showcase and use all this knowledge that I’ve learned from him.”
Safety Taylor Rapp grew up in Washington watching Wagner star for Seahawks teams that were buoyed by support from the team’s “12th Man” fans that make it difficult on visiting opponents.
But he anticipates that Wagner will be greeted with cheers Sunday.
“I think the crowd and the whole Seahawks ‘12th Man’ are going to give him a nice warm welcome,” Rapp said, adding with a chuckle, “They better at least.”
Wagner enters the game with 133 tackles, 10 shy of breaking the team record of 142 set by James Laurinaitis in 2011 and 2012. Wagner also has six sacks and two interceptions.
“The thing that’s special about Bobby is how steady and how consistent he is,” coach Sean McVay said. “He played great against these guys the last time, but he’s played great in a lot of games this year and I expect him to be able to do the same and bring people with him.”
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris among them.
“I want to go out there and get a win for him,” Morris said. “I’m going to flat out just say it for him and for his teammates and for the guys that wanted to play so hard for him the last time and just to be able to do that for Bobby because of Bobby.
“All the things he’s given us, let’s go give him something back.”