RENTON — Bruce Irvin didn’t need a word to answer the question.
Asked how it felt to be back with the Seahawks, the second-year linebacker flashed a huge grin and held the look for a few seconds, making sure he got the point across.
“My smile explains everything,” he said.
Irvin, Seattle’s first-round pick last year who led all NFL rookies with eight sacks, is back with the team after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
“It feels great,” Irvin said. “It was tough watching these guys for four weeks, but I paid my debt to society and now it’s time to get back to work.
“Words can’t explain how tough it was. Watching these guys battle each and every week. I know they’re competing in practice, and I’m just waking up watching SportsCenter, getting a good night’s sleep, waking up at 11:30 to go work out, these guys are waking up at 6 in the morning. It was hard, but I made the best out of the situation, I got through it, and now I’m back.”
While suspended, Irvin spent his time working out at West Virginia University. Irvin, who donated $100,000 to his former school to help with the construction of a new weight room, joked that he ought to go back there to take advantage of that donation. In addition to staying in shape, he also tried to pass on some on- and off-field advice to players.
“I tried to coach them up and give as much advice as I can,” Irvin said. “Try to make them see I’m not there because I’m supposed to be there, (but because) I’m suspended. I got my work done, stayed off the ESPN ticker, so I think I accomplished what I needed to do.”
Irvin, who played defensive end as a rookie, playing primarily on passing downs, is moving to strongside linebacker this year. And while the new position requires some different responsibilities, Irvin still will spend much of his time as a pass rusher, adding to an already impressive group that includes Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and O’Brien Schofield.
“It’s great to have Bruce back,” Avril said. “He’s such an athlete. It’s going to be interesting to see where they put him as far as the pass rush, but it’s definitely going to be a race to the quarterback.
“We’re definitely happy to add another pass rusher to everything. If you double-team one person, it leaves three other good pass rushers to get after the quarterback. It’s good to have him back. … He’s the fastest out of all of us, so it’s going to be pretty cool to add that.”
Malcolm Smith has been the starting strongside linebacker thus far this season, and though Pete Carroll didn’t say what Irvin’s role will be right off the bat, linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. made it clear they plan to get Irvin involved this week.
“Absolutely,” said Norton, who used the words “excited” or “exciting” 13 times in less than three minutes of discussing Irvin’s return. “That’s Bruce Irvin, are you kidding me? He’s a first-round pick, that guy does everything.
“When you look up the picture of a linebacker, his face shows up. We’re really excited, he’s going to do it all. He’s going to be rushing the passer, he’s going to be playing the run, he’s going to be buzzing to the flats, he’s going to be flying around. … We’re really excited to have him, and you’re going to see what we’ve been missing come Sunday.”
Irvin, whose suspension was reportedly the result of a positive test for Adderall, has expressed remorse several times for letting his team down, and said as much as it hurt to be absent, he tried to use his suspension as a chance to better himself.
“This was more about me learning from this experience and growing and becoming a better person on and off the field,” Irvin said.
“I’m itching right now. I’ve been itching, in a good way, for three, four weeks. I’m just going to keep my nose clean from here on out and just play football.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.