No wonder Irvin wore a huge smile Wednesday when he finally got back on the practice field after serving a four-game suspension for using a banned substance.
"My smile explains everything. It feels great," Irvin said. "It was tough watching these guys for four weeks but you know I had to pay my debt to society. Now it's time to get back to work."
The Seahawks didn't hesitate in throwing Irvin back into practice on Wednesday, but have not made a determination if he will be ready to go when Seattle heads to Indianapolis to face the Colts. Not only has Irvin missed the first month of the season, he has yet to play a regular-season game in his new role as a linebacker.
"This is a bit of a transition for him. He still hasn't really cemented himself in that position with the limited amount of work he got in the preseason," coach Pete Carroll said. "We have to wait and see what it looks like."
Irvin, the Seahawks' first-round pick in 2012, spent most of his four-week suspension in West Virginia, where he went to college. Irvin said he tried to stay in football shape and to pass along the message to college players not to take their opportunities for granted. Irvin was scheduled to make $814,645 in base salary for the 2013 season but lost a quarter of that total.
"I just love that state. Obviously, I went to school there. I contributed to the weight room, a lot of money, so I felt like I should go back there and use the weight room," Irvin joked. "It was rough being around those college kids, but I tried to coach them up and give them as much advice as I can and try to make them see that I'm not there because I'm supposed to be there. I'm suspended. So little things like that. It was good."
The decision to move Irvin to linebacker stems partly from what the Seahawks were able to do in free agency when they were able to sign Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Tony McDaniel to add to the defensive line. With those pieces, the Seahawks could tinker with the idea of using Irvin as a linebacker playing on the line of scrimmage.
His speed and athleticism mean he can drop into coverage and rush the passer. How effective he is at either will only be determined when he finally gets on the field. The idea of Irvin playing in coverage isn't completely foreign. He was a safety in junior college in Southern California when Carroll first saw him.
Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. was thrilled to have Irvin back on the field and to start working with him again after spending offseason workouts and training camp helping make the position change.
"It's just like having a new toy. It's really exciting," Norton said. "We're going to put him right in there and see him right away."
Irvin finished his rookie season with eight sacks but had just one in the final six weeks of the regular season. With Chris Clemons out, Irvin got the start against Atlanta in the NFC playoffs and appeared overwhelmed by the Falcons' offensive line while trying to be the main pass rusher. But his speed off the edge flashed at different points during his rookie season and was the big reason Seattle used the 15th overall pick on a rush end whom many pundits didn't expect to be drafted that high.
Irvin isn't done as a pass rusher. Carroll has talked about the idea of using Clemons, Avril, Bennett and Irvin as a rush group on the defensive line during obvious passing situations.
"With Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, and Mike Bennett, that's scary man," Irvin said. "They said it's hard to make plays on this defense so I'm just trying to get out there and bust my tail and make the best of the situation when I'm in."
Notes: Seattle claimed QB B.J. Daniels off waivers from San Francisco and released LB John Lotulelei. ... Carroll said they believe C Max Unger (triceps) will be able to play Sunday at Indianapolis. Unger sat out last week vs. Houston. ... Carroll said RT Breno Giacomini is still in New York following minor knee surgery earlier this week and the team still doesn't have a timetable for his return.
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