RENTON, Wash. — While sitting at home and watching the playoffs on TV last season, Bruce Irvin felt a desire to somehow find his way back to where his NFL career began.
The pull was so strong that Irvin reached out to one of his former teammates after the Seattle Seahawks’ playoff win against Philadelphia.
“After the Philly game, actually, I sent Bobby (Wagner) a text while they were on the plane saying, ‘I wish I was on that plane with you all,’” Irvin said Tuesday. “I just wanted to come back.”
Irvin got his wish during the offseason, when Seattle brought him back on a one-year deal in the hopes the 32-year-old still can be a menace in the pass rush and play outside linebacker during early downs.
The reunion was several years in the making for the former first-round pick, who entered the league with numerous question marks only to become a solid pro. After spending the first four seasons of his career with the Seahawks, going to two Super Bowls and winning one, Irvin made stops in Oakland, Atlanta and Carolina.
But finding his way back to the Seahawks always was a desire. Coupled with Seattle’s need to bolster its pass rush, a return made sense for both sides this offseason.
“I can’t complain about anywhere I’ve been, but nothing has been like Seattle. From how we travel, to how we practice, how they take care of the older players, from the cafeteria, from totally being on the lake, it’s just everything,” Irvin said. “It’s great. They run it right up there. I’m just happy to be back.”
Of course, the reunion only works if Irvin can help Seattle’s defense, which took a step back last season, largely because of its inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle was next-to-last in the NFL with only 28 sacks and that was with Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive line.
Clowney’s return is uncertain, which is why the additions of Irvin, former University of Idaho standout Benson Mayowa and draft picks Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson were so important. At the least, the Seahawks have options in trying to address last season’s biggest problem.
“Pass rush is always something we’re focused on,” general manager John Schneider said before April’s draft. “Obviously, we need to do a better job in that regard and that’s from an acquisition standpoint, from a developmental standpoint, and from a schematic standpoint.”
The Seahawks likely would be thrilled if Irvin can match what he did last season with Carolina. In just 13 games, Irvin had a career-high 8½ sacks including one of Russell Wilson in a Week 15 loss to the Seahawks. Since leaving Seattle after the 2015 season, Irvin has posted at least 6½ sacks in each of the past four years.
While those aren’t huge numbers, they’re still better than any Seattle player had last season.
But Irvin’s versatility goes beyond the pass rush. Irvin said it’s likely he’ll play the strongside linebacker position along the line of scrimmage in early downs before moving to being more of a pass rusher on third-down situations. It’s similar to what he did in Seattle before leaving.
“We got a young group and we got to work,” Irvin said. “I couldn’t predict how many sacks we’re going to get right now, but I think we’ve got a young, talented group and I’m going to work to lead these boys. ... I just hope they’re ready to work.”