THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – When the Rams signed linebacker Bobby Wagner this spring, their primary vision was for him to impact the middle of their defense.
In Week 9, they found another way for him be a difference-maker.
Leaping over the Buccaneers long snapper, Wagner swatted away kicker Ryan Succop's 52-yard field goal attempt for his first field goal block since 2018.
"It's fun, man, when they give me an opportunity to jump over," Wagner said Thursday. "They actually called it out before the play, so I thought they was going to do something about it. But hey, their fault."
Yes, Wagner, confirmed, the Buccaneers' field goal unit had pointed him out on it because they were familiar with Wagner's special teams history. Wagner didn't do it on their previous field goal attempt, so when they saw him lining up for the 52-yarder, they knew something must be up.
In 2018, Wagner jumped over the snapper to block a 47-yard field goal by then-Vikings kicker Dan Bailey. Wagner had also done it two years earlier against the Cardinals on a 39-yard field goal attempt by kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
So, what exactly was it that contributed to Wagner's leaping ability on that block last week? Plyometric boxes? Something else?
"Just basketball," Wagner said with a smile. "Was trying out for the Lakers."
Asked about getting up with two feet, Wagner added: "You gotta be able to do both. LeBron (James) can do both, so I got make to make sure I can do both."
Ultimately, there wasn't anything special about the technique used to make the play – though Wagner did have added motivation due to not only wanting to prevent points going on the board, but also knowing the response from teammates if he didn't stick the landing.
"Honestly, I'm just thinking, 'Make sure I make it over,' because if I fall on my face, I won't hear the end of it, especially (with) these guys," Wagner said. "That was really what I was thinking – if I don't make this jump, then you guys are going to hear me get stuff for a long time."
The Rams could use another block out of Wagner this Sunday against the Cardinals, with Arizona kicker Matt Prater a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals this season and one of eight kickers in the NFL with with a field goal percentage of 100 percent.
The process of doing so is difficult, but Wagner showed it's pretty straightforward to him.
"I was just watching the ball, made sure I got a good jump, and as soon I landed, you've gotta go, because the kickers get the ball out pretty fast," Wagner said. "It was just good timing and I was able to get the block."