By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The first time the Seahawks tried to acquire O’Brien Schofield, the Arizona Cardinals beat them to the punch, drafting the pass rusher before the Seahawks could in 2010.
“This is a guy that we liked in the draft a couple of years ago; this was one of the guys that we were trying to get in the draft,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We had a place that we were going to pick him, but unfortunately for us, he went before that.”
So when Schofield hit the waiver wire last week, the Seahawks were surprised, but also eager to claim the former fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin. This time, the Seahawks had to wait for all of the teams ahead of them in the waiver order to find out if they’d finally get their man more than three years later.
“Yes we were (surprised Schofield was released),” Carroll said. “And when we claimed him, it was a long ways for him to go to get to us. So we were excited that we got him, because we set our sights on him earlier. Sometimes it’s funny how that works.”
In 2010, the Seahawks saw Schofield as a young talent who could help with a rebuilding project under a first-year head coach and general manager who were drastically overhauling the roster. Now, they seen in Schofield a potentially vital insurance policy for a pass rush they tried to overhaul in free agency.
Schofield, who played outside linebacker in Arizona’s 3-4 scheme, will be used at strongside linebacker and defensive end, much in the same role as Bruce Irvin. The Seahawks have a proven pass-rushing end in Chris Clemons; they drafted Irvin in the first round last year; and they went out and signed two of the top free agent ends, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, in the offseason.
Yet Clemons, who tore his ACL in the playoffs, is still very much a question mark for the start of the season, Irvin is suspended for the first four games and Avril already has been limited by foot and hamstring issues since joining the team. Even Bennett, who has been a regular on the practice field save for missing Tuesday’s session for the birth of a child, is playing this season with a torn rotator cuff.
“It helps us,” Carroll said when asked if Schofield will help mitigate the early-season absence of Irvin. “It will help us with Clem too in his recover, because he is a legitimate outside rusher on third down. He played on a really good third-down team last year with Arizona, and it looks like he could contribute to us.”
For Schofield, the chance to join a contender — and yes, a division rival of his former team — was as welcome as his release was surprising. After picking up 4.5 sacks in 2011 as a backup, Schofield earned a starting job in 2012 and started the first nine games, picking up four sacks before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 9.
He rehabbed the ankle, reported to Cardinals training camp feeling 100 percent healthy, then found out that his team of three years, which hired a new coach and general manager in the offseason, deemed him expendable having just signed John Abraham. From starter, to injured, to cut, just like that, and while playing under a team-friendly rookie contract — even by the cutthroat standards of the NFL, that’s a pretty tough business decision.
“It was a rough process,” Schofield said. “I definitely didn’t think that something like that would happen to me, but the fact that it did and I get picked up as soon as I did by a division rival, it makes me happy that I get a chance to see Arizona two times a year.
“It’s a lot of motivation. I have some old buddies there, and honestly I didn’t like the way that I got let go, but at the same time I really appreciate the opportunity; it was definitely a blessing. Now, I’m able to start a different part of my life with the Seattle Seahawks, and I’m ready to go.”
Schofield admitted that trying to keep up at first was, “kind of like Spanish with learning all of the new calls and new language,” but he thinks he’ll fit in just fine even if the Seahawks’ hybrid 4-3 scheme is different than what he knew in Arizona. Whether he’s a linebacker or a defensive end, Schofield knows what his job will be with the Seahawks.
“Just getting after the passer, a pass rusher first,” he said. “The (coverage) drops aren’t as complicated as I had to do in the past so that’s even better. They really made it simple for the guys that they believe are rushers to have simple drops and not think too much and just be able to play fast.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.