Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will not play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl so he can rest his ailing knee, coach Pete Carroll confirmed Tuesday in an interview with NFL Network.
But Carroll said Wagner does not need surgery.
“He’s OK,” Carroll said of Wagner, Seattle’s middle linebacker since 2012. “He had something really he didn’t even know he had, found it in the exit interviews that he has a little problem with his knee. He’s just going to rest up. He doesn’t have to do anything for it, but he needs to miss this game.”
Wagner was one of two Seahawks named to the initial NFC team, the other being quarterback Russell Wilson. Wagner is being replaced by the Minnesota Vikings’ Eric Kendricks, brother of Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin was added this week as an injury replacement. Carroll and the Seattle staff are serving as coaches for the game, which will kick off Sunday at noon PST in Orlando, Fla.
Wagner mentioned the injury issue during interviews with the media Jan. 13 when players cleaned out their lockers after the season-ending playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, but was vague on whether he might need surgery or exactly what the issue was.
Wagner missed much of training camp last year to have an injection in his knee. He then suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of a victory at Carolina on Dec. 15. But he did not miss a game this season and played every snap in every game other than when he was sidelined against the Panthers.
Carroll also confirmed Griffin will take a spot as a cornerback, marking his first appearance in the game in his third year in the NFL. Griffin is officially replacing Marshon Lattimore of New Orleans (the 49ers’ Richard Sherman is also not playing in the game since San Francisco made the Super Bowl, and the league announced his spot is officially being filled by the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes).
Griffin was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., and played at Central Florida, located in Orlando.
“Shaq’s had a great season and he really has improved in the three years that he’s been with us,” Carroll said. “He’s a fantastic player for us now. It’s great that he gets recognized to be part of this. … I know he’s really charged up about that.”
Wilson is one of three QBs for the NFC team, the others being the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins, who is replacing Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
“Russell did have a great season from the start all the way through the finish of it, all the way to the final game, the final opportunity, he was battling,” Carroll said. “He’s such a great competitor and it comes through. He just continues to grow as a player. This was his best year, I think, and he’s really got years ahead of him that are going to continue to improve and he’s having a great run of it. We’re having a blast. Wish we’d won a couple more games and still be playing right now, but other than that we are going to do everything we can at the Pro Bowl to have a good time.”
The game will also serve as an experiment for a couple of revised rules, most notably that a team that scores can elect to place the ball at its own 25 and try a play that is officially fourth-and-15. If the team picks up the first down, then a new set of downs picks up at that spot. But if the team fails to make a first down, the ball will be turned over and the opposing team will take possession at the dead-ball spot.
Carroll said he is interested to see how that might work as a possible alternative for onside kicks. Teams recovered a mere eight of 56 onside kicks this season in the NFL.
“I think it’s fun to try to find a more competitive way to find a way to give the team behind a chance to go for it,” Carroll said. “Onside kicks aren’t working out real well. A low rate. This situation is going to be interesting and we’ll see how it goes. If we have a chance, we are going to use it. The league needs to continue to grow and challenge and expand our thoughts when it’s possible and this is one way to do it.”