Player spotlight: Seahawks LB Michael Wilhoite ready to step in for an injured Bobby Wagner if needed
RENTON – The most important man on Seattle’s defense this week was selling athletic apparel in a Kansas mall this time five years ago.
In fact, Michael Wilhoite was considering enlisting in the military before he was signed to the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad in 2011 after playing a season in the now-defunct United Football League.
Now in his sixth NFL season, Wilhoite is preparing to step in at middle linebacker for a top candidate to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year should Bobby Wagner be unable to play because of the hamstring injury.
Is Wilhoite ready?
“Yes, sir,” Wilhoite said. “Yes, sir. Been there before.”
That happened with San Francisco when the 49ers started losing their defensive mainstays like Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Justin Smith.
After signing with Seattle as a free agent this year, Wilhoite is the starting strongside linebacker on a defense that has lost Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril and Richard Sherman to injuries this season, and Wagner’s status is in doubt because of a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing for three weeks and counting and forced him out of last Sunday’s game in the third quarter.
If Wagner is unable to play, Wilhoite is expected to move over from his position as a strongside linebacker.
“Michael Wilhoite is an experienced football player,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He doesn’t have any problem stepping into the role of calling stuff when he plays.”
Wilhoite made it to the NFL out of Washburn, a Division II school, and his experience in San Francisco – where he played for five seasons – taught him that he won’t be trying to replace what a specific teammate does so much as maintain a level of play.
“The thing is around here is a standard,” Wilhoite said, “and we’ve always said that and the coaches have always preached that. It’s a standard and just like everybody knows when you go home, there’s a certain standard and you have to live up to it whether you have before, you just know you have to. Either you live up to it or you have to get out of there.”