By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — If you were surprised to learn that, in an attempt to bolster their pass rush, the Seattle Seahawks signed Patrick Chukwurah, a player who hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2008, you weren’t alone.
Chukwurah could hardly believe it himself.
When he got the call asking if he wanted to fly to Seattle for a tryout, Chukwurah initially wasn’t sure if his agent was being serious. Once he realized this opportunity was real, Chukwurah, “Just jumped on the first thing smoking and came out here.”
The 33-year-old Chukwurah, who most recently played two seasons in the UFL before that league folded, hasn’t played organized football of any sorts for more than a year. Yet he was impressive enough in a tryout Tuesday that the Seahawks signed him over other better-known defensive ends, a result that even he had a hard time believing.
“Honestly, no,” Chukwurah said when asked if he still thought an NFL comeback was realistic. “I was really set on moving on and starting the next chapter, so it’s definitely a blessing.”
That next chapter will just have to wait, which is obviously just fine for Chukwurah, who was working as a personal trainer in Tampa, Fla. Now, instead of helping other people reach their fitness goals, Chukwurah may very well find himself on the field during a playoff game Sunday, which is pretty remarkable considering he spent last Sunday watching the Seahawks beat Washington on TV while eating chicken wings.
Though, if you think the fact that Chukwurah was eating wings and watching TV means the Seahawks signed some out-of-shape guy off his couch, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Chukwurah is something of a fitness nut — the guy has a fully-defined six pack while sitting down — and he allows himself just one “cheat day” per week when it comes to junk food, which is the only reason he was indulging last weekend.
Chukwurah, despite his limited NFL background — he started five games and had nine sacks in six seasons with Minnesota, Denver and Tampa Bay — wasn’t a mystery to the Seahawks. While in Tampa Bay in 2007 and 2008, he played under current Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash. But that familiarity only got him so far, and it was Chukwurah’s impressive workout Tuesday that allowed him to win a job.
“When we were with him in Tampa and now, he has one of the best bodies there is in the league,” Wash said. “He keeps himself in top, top shape. He really hasn’t lost much of a step over the years. He’s kept himself in great shape and he keeps a lot of pride in that, which is why he’s got a shot to come in and help us out.”
This signing would seem completely crazy and ill-advised if not for the fact that the Seahawks have become Super Bowl contenders in part by making moves that left everyone scratching their heads at the time.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t all that interesting in making moves that earn praise from pundits as long as the end result is an improved roster.
They assembled the NFL’s best secondary by signing a cornerback out of the CFL, drafting a receiver-turned corner in the fifth round and by starting an over-sized fifth-round pick at strong safety. The Seahawks’ quarterback is too short, their right guard played defensive tackle in college and they built a run-stuffing defense by moving a 320-pound tackle to defensive end.
Heck, even Chris Clemons, the team’s sack leader whom Chukwurah is replacing on the roster, was a relatively unknown player when Seattle acquired him in a 2010 trade.
So even though this move looks a little odd — OK, a lot odd — the Seahawks’ front office has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to moves that defy conventional wisdom. And man, what a story it would be if this one pans out.
“It’s a cool story,” Carroll said. “Imagine sitting home, you’re working out, and the phone rings, and you’re going to the playoffs. It’s a pretty cool story for the kid and I’m excited for him.”
It’s such a cool story, in fact, that Chukwurah was still having a hard time wrapping his head around it as he wrapped tape around his ankles in preparation for his first NFL practice in more than four years.
“I couldn’t fathom it,” he said. “It never came in my mind that something like this could happen. It was straight out of the blue, and I thank the lord for it. I just want to make the best out of it. If this is my last run, hopefully it’s a run where we go to the Super Bowl.
“It’d be a great story to get a Super Bowl ring.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.