BY Art Thiel 05:11PM 08/10/2015

Thiel: Seahawks’ LB Irvin: Bigger, faster, madder

Irked with Seahawks’ decision not to pick up his option year, LB Bruce Irvin added 18 pounds of muscle and “learned to be a pass rusher.” He might play himself into a superstar.

Seahawks LB Bruce Irvin, greeting 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — If there is an established Seahawks player who epitomizes the kid on the outside looking in, it is LB Bruce Irvin. Wherever he is, he isn’t quite good enough. Tuesday at Seahawks practice, he found himself asked by the club to lead a tour of the practice facility for a team from Portland’s inner-city Roosevelt High School.  He wasn’t sure why.

“I think they’re from the ‘hood, so that’s how we can relate,” he said. “I think they’re ghetto, and I used to be ghetto, so that’s a bond.

“I asked them, ‘From all these superstars, why do you want to see me?’”

He didn’t say if the kids answered, but I would suggest one endearing virtue might be his penchant for honesty. Or as he put it, “I’ve always said I’m a blunt person — Bruce is gonna do what Bruce is gonna do.”

What kid wouldn’t like to hear from someone like that?

Others, however, do not find Irvin’s bluntness so endearing. Which is why Irvin found his phone lit up May 13 with a 425 area code and a name: Pete.

“Soon as it came out, (coach Pete Carroll)  came straight to the source, as a man should do,” Irvin said. “He called me. We nipped it in the bud. He understood that it was blown out of proportion.”

What “it” was were remarks Irvin made after the Seahawks said they were declining their fifth-year option in 2016 on Irvin’s contract, which was worth $7.8 million. The decision surprised no one around the Seahawks who understood the difficulty the team has with managing payroll under the NFL salary cap after huge success.

Which didn’t mean that Irvin wasn’t mortally pissed. So Bruce did what Bruce is gonna do: He vented to a reporter in his hometown of Atlanta, where he was attending a Hawks NBA playoff game.

“I’m going to be in Atlanta next season,” Irvin said. “I’m ready.”

He also raged on Twitter about what he felt was a snub: “Faced way tougher adversity getting outta them streets coming up! That’s s— is nothing! F— THAT OPTION!”

First, Irvin is under contract for 2015 at $1.6 million, so he can’t market his services. Second, the Falcons rushed out a statement saying they were not tampering with another team’s player. Third (and I paraphrase Pete Carroll here):

“Shut the hell up, Bruce!”

Here’s how Irvin explained it:

“They was killing me on social media. Pete just kinda told me to stay away from it. Don’t give interviews or answer anything. I told him a reporter kinda asked me a question and he took it the wrong way and ran with it.

“Pete knew where my heart was and understood it. I’m still on social media, but I gotta switch it up a little bit.”

While the contracts of several other teammates were being extended before their deals’ expiration, Irvin would be stuck having to play out his final year and, pending a failure to get a new Seahawks deal, enter free agency.

So rather than do his heavy lifting on social media, Irvin responded to the tempest in a more appropriate space: The weight room.

He’s up 18 pounds of muscle and blowing past Seahawks offensive tackles in training camp with renewed vigor. He wasn’t too bad before: His 16.5 sacks over his first three seasons ranks third in Seahawks history behind Jeff Bryant with 25.5 from 1982-84 and Cortez Kennedy in 1990-92 with 21.5.

Irvin was asked why he thought he needed to bulk up.

“I got tired of being 240, bro,” he said. “I felt like a little guy out there. So I got big and strong. I’m moving pretty well with it. I wanted to look the part. I think I did a great job.

“I learned how to become a pass rusher.”

Isn’t it also true that you’re still irked with the Seahawks’ decision?

“It got something to do with it,” he said. “I’m just trying to have the best season I can have. Hopefully I can be here another three or four years, and everything will work out.”

Carroll was asked if an absence of size and power last season was limiting Irvin on his pass rush.

“It didn’t seem to be an issue until we see him now at the other end of it,” he said. “The added strength makes a difference. He’s able to disengage and get off blocks better than he has. He’s always been a speed guy. He’s playing with more power now. That’s a really important add because he’s still really fast.

“He’s looked the best he’s looked; it’s the best camp he’s had. We’re really happy about it. We always want the strongest, fastest. That’s kinda where he is now.”

Think about Carroll’s evaluation for a minute. Irvin played 709 snaps last season, eighth among Seahawks defenders. What if his improved physicality graduates him to more full-time status as a QB pressure guy opposite Michael Bennett? How does an offensive coordinator stack his QB’s protection? And last season, Pro Football Focus rated Irvin higher as a run stopper over a pass rusher (+12.3 to -1.2).

If 2015 goes according to plan, Irvin, for perhaps the first time in his checkered life, will no longer be on the outside looking in. He could become the most valued free agent linebacker in the 2016 class.

He could do what he said in May said he was gonna do: “Atlanta is where I want to be. Believe that.”

Bruce Irvin will do what he was gonna do: Be a superstar, no longer on the outside looking in.

 


YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    I hope Irvin has at least several more years as a Seahawk and tears it up.

  • jafabian

    Part of me liked how Bruce reacted when the Seahawks declined picking up his option. He didn’t treat it like a business. In so many words he said he loves being a Seahawk and that’s refreshing. No sub-tweeting, no cryptic comments, no Bible verses. His feelings were hurt and he put it out there. I’m hoping he has an awesome year and he gets what he wants after the season: either a great contract with a team he wants to be on or a long term deal here.

    • John M

      Let’s hope with the new weight and determination he also acquired some change-up technique. Maybe he’s figured out that speed alone is not enough. It will be interesting to see how he uses the new tools . . .

      • art thiel

        He claims he learned, too. Can’t rely on one trick in the NFL.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          Guys like John Clayton call him a freakish athlete and The best Athlete on the Squad in the fastest strongest dept in seasons past….good to see he is still trying to improve upon his status.

    • art thiel

      His honesty is rare, disarming and refreshing.

      • jafabian

        I was listening to Bruce on one of the morning radio sport talk shows the day after the NFC Championship. He was asked if he went out and partied after the game and he was so casual, so laid back in his answer. He goes “Naw man….Russell was with us. You know he don’t drink. We went out to McDonald’s downtown instead. It was all good.” Then he goes on to talk about the game, specifically Clay Matthews: “The game was wild man. Clay was everywhere Everywhere. Like his hair. Hair. He was always playing with it. What’s up with that?” I was dying by the end of the interview. He doesn’t mean to be funny. He’s like Marshawn in that way.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        He snorts and chortles like no other in the let me tell you how I Reaaaaally feel zone.

    • Warchild_70

      Why did your dissatisfaction have to include Bible verses? I would put up with those scripture verses than knowing the a teammate just cracked the jaw of the starting QB! Or any other thuggery. Blessed is the man that fear and loves the Lord. From what I’ve seen (I’m knocking on 65) the early days football players were nothing but physical beasties they played hurt and suffered greatly. Think about the knees of Dick Butkis or Johnny Unitas and his throwing arm he barely was able to lift up . Today’s athletes are the same except their spirituality is to give GOD the glory for their talent acknowledging the Creator for the gift to play a GAME. Blessing to you and yours, shalom.

  • MacPhisto92

    Has underachieved his entire time here in Seattle, and now he’s suddenly determined to be the best—just in time for a big payday. Funny how needing a new contract does that to a guy……maybe if he had lived up to his high draft status he’d already be locked up with a huge extension here in Seattle.

    • jafabian

      Taking him in the first was a reach. He was projected to go anywhere in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. He was brought in to fill a role much like how Red Bryant had a specific role when he was here. IMO, he’s put equal weight on being a Seahawk as he has getting a contract and he hasn’t put as much weight on money as other players might.

      • art thiel

        Seahawks do a lot of reaches. And I do think he knows big money awaits him.

    • art thiel

      Your description puts him with about 90 percent of pro athletes. If that were not true, you could eliminate about half the coaching staffs on pro teams. It’s human nature that most people, if they think they will get away with it, slack off.

  • whoKarez

    I always cringe when I hear about an athlete getting bigger/stronger/faster especially during the off season. A piss test is sure to follow. Fingers crossed.

    • art thiel

      I get the skepticism. The NFL catches PED guys every season, although mostly it’s for Adderall, not muscle builders. If Irvin was that dumb, he’ll deserve every day of the suspension.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Agreed. He lost 4 games pay to start the 2013 season.He is rankled/miffed about the money he is making this season(chicken feed next to Wagners or even newcomer Cary Williams new contract for instance) and anguishing about what he could have made had Seattle picked up his option.He would have broke his mallet hitting the dumbmeter bell by chemically risking his future and the free agent dollars next year.

  • just passing thru

    hmm…even if the Seahawks don’t keep him, I hope this is his career year.