Versatile Schofield a ‘terrific addition’ to Seahawks

RENTON — Let’s get one thing clear, O’Brien Schofield hates seeing his former teammates in Arizona go down to season-ending injuries.

But that doesn’t mean the Seattle Seahawks’ linebacker/defensive end can’t see the irony in the way things played out for his former team. The Cardinals released Schofield in July in part because of concerns about his health — he finished last season on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Yet three games into the season, Schofield is healthy and playing a big role for one of the NFL’s best defenses while the Cardinals are struggling with injuries at outside linebacker.

Cardinals starting strongside linebacker Sam Acho is out for the year with a broken leg and rookie Alex Okafor, who would have replaced Acho, also is out with a torn biceps tendon. In addition, weakside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is out for the year with a foot injury.

“I’m pretty close with Sam Acho, I hated to see what happened with him and Lorenzo,” said Schofield, who had yet to hear the news about Okafor. “But it’s part of the business. When you take those chances thinking that you’re doing better and those happen, you’ve got to deal with it. I’m looking at it just shaking my head. I hate that those guys have to go through those injuries, but from an organization standpoint, it is what it is. I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Schofield is happy to have landed in Seattle and to be a part of one of the league’s best teams, and the Seahawks are thrilled to have him. When the Seahawks claimed Schofield off waivers, it looked like a nice addition to their pass rushing depth, but few could have predicted how important he would be early in the season. With Chris Clemons still recovering from knee surgery and with Cliff Avril battling a hamstring injury, Schofield started the season opener at the Leo defensive end position. He didn’t start in Week 2, but was featured in the defense plenty as a pass rusher. Then this past weekend, with Malcolm Smith out with a hamstring injury, Schofield started at strongside linebacker. Through three games, Schofield has been on the field for 47 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps, and that number would be a bit higher had the score not gotten so lopsided against Jacksonville.

“He’s been extraordinarily valuable,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “To do all that he’s done, to be a featured nickel rusher as well when we didn’t know we’d be banged up with Cliff, we didn’t know when Clem would be back, then Malcolm having an issue here early, it’s been obvious how important he’s been. He’s done well on special teams, too. He’s been on the punt team and done some really good things, so he’s been a terrific addition for us. We’re very fortunate to have found him.”

Schofield’s role could change as the team continues to get healthy and when Bruce Irvin returns from suspension. However, he came here fully expecting to have an impact no matter how deep the Seahawks were with pass rushers.

“Pete Carroll and (general manager) John Schneider told me exactly what I’d be doing when I got here, that I’d move around a little bit, and that they had some guys out, and when those guys get back, we’d have a really big rotation,” Schofield said.

The Cardinals now may be wishing they could take back that decision they made this summer, but Schofield couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. And even if his release caught him off guard, Schofield wasn’t sure he would have wanted to stay with his former team anyway, following a coaching change.

“They were treating me so bad there when the new coaches came in, I feel like at some point I would have asked to leave, asked to be traded or something,” he said. “The fact that I’m here and in the same division, I’m just licking my chops for when that time comes and I get to see them again.”

And it’s safe to say Schofield feels better with how things are going with his new organization.

“It’s just exciting to be around guys with so much talent, guys who want to win, who are hungry to win,” he said. “I can’t explain it. It makes your job easier because you don’t have to play out of the box. You don’t have go crazy and do things that you don’t need to do normally. This is a team where you get team wins, and it’s evident on Sundays.”

Injury update

Red Bryant should be fine for Sunday’s game, Carroll said. However, the defensive ende did not practice Wednesday. Also among the group sitting out was center Max Unger, who injured his arm Sunday but played through it, and right tackle Breno Giacomini, who left the game with a knee injury. About Giacomini, Carroll said they need to get “some more information to see where he is.” Receiver Jermaine Kearse also sat out after spraining his ankle Sunday, but Carroll said Kearse will try to practice Thursday and has a chance to make it back for Sunday’s game.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill practiced, though on a limited basis, for the first time since suffering a biceps injury in training camp. Carroll said it was too soon to know if Hill will be ready to play this week.

Roster Move

The Seahawks signed center Jason Spitz, a free agent who spent the past three seasons in Jacksonville before being released in August. Spitz came into the league with Green Bay as a third-round pick in 2006 and started 45 games in four seasons with the Packers. The Seahawks had an open spot on the roster after releasing defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith on Tuesday.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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