When Julian Peterson left the San Francisco 49ers for the greener pastures of Seattle after six NFL seasons, he was searching for a few things that he eventually found.
A change in scenery.
More talented teammates.
A Super Bowl contender.
What Peterson didn’t expect to find was the heartache. Standing on the brink of the NFC Championship game before losing in overtime is even harder than all those sub-.500 seasons Peterson endured in San Francisco.
“It’s been a long time for myself being back in the playoffs,” said Peterson, whose only two postseason appearances with the 49ers in 2001-02 resulted in first-round losses. “And for us, being a couple seconds away from the NFC Championship game, that brings even more fuel to the fire coming into this next year.”
In a sense, Year 1 of Peterson’s tenure as a Seahawk was everything that he expected. But the 29-year-old linebacker still wants more.
“This group (of defensive players) has to take it up another step because we need to play a lot better than we did last year,” the Seahawks’ $54 million man said last week.
For Peterson, it will be hard to improve on the numbers he posted in 2006. With 89 tackles and a career-high 10 sacks, Peterson joined Green Bay’s Aaron Kampman and Baltimore’s Adalius Thomas as the only three NFL players to record at least 80 tackles and 10 sacks last season.
“He certainly fits into our scheme and helps out other players too,” defensive coordinator John Marshall said. “He’s fit in real well.
“And he’s still learning. He’ll be better.”
As scary as that sounds for opposing teams, it is a realistic scenario. While he has missed two weeks of camp with a minor knee injury, Peterson is expected back this week and could see his duties increase when the regular season begins on Sunday. He had a limited role early in the 2006 season and seemed to get better as the team asked him to do more.
“I think what you can do is overload that too much and get him so that he’s got so many things to do,” Marshall said. “We had to start out slow, and as he came along, we would stand him up here and there and then put him down in a four-point stance, that kind of thing.
“He can do a lot of things.”
Peterson is widely regarded as one of the most versatile defenders in the entire league. He played linebacker and defensive end during his first season with the Seahawks and, during his days as a San Francisco 49er, saw time at cornerback and safety.
“He’s more athletic than most guys,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Gil Haskell, who is relieved not to have to game-plan for Peterson twice a year. “He’s in a different league that way.
“He is a phenom at his position because he’s so gifted.”
The Seahawks hope to feature those gifts even more this season. With added pieces like pass-rushing end Patrick Kerney and veteran safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell, the Seahawks believe Peterson can be freed up to expand his role.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had so many guys who can complement me rushing the passer,” Peterson said. “I think the more guys you have rushing the passer, it makes your defense a lot scarier. Nobody knows where to protect more if you have more than one rusher.”
This time last year, Peterson was visibly inspired by his change in scenery. Now he’s excited about the changing personnel around him.
“There were times when I was with the Niners, and (opposing teams) used to always identify No. 98,” Peterson said, referring to the uniform number he wore in San Francisco. “It was like they would slide the whole line over to my side, and I’d be like, ‘Man, I can’t get anything on them.’ But when you have other guys who can rush the passer, it makes it a lot easier.”
While Peterson is excited about his second season in Seattle, he had plenty of success in Year 1. His 10 sacks led the team, while he ranked fourth on the team in tackles.
“He’s a playmaker. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “There aren’t many guys like him.
“Nine of his 10 sacks last year came from a three-point stance. That’s amazing. D-ends can rush every down of every game and they don’t get 10 sacks. He did it (while playing defensive line primarily) on third downs.”
It remains to be seen how Peterson’s role will evolve now that he’s got a year under his belt. Getting back on the practice field today will be a step toward his eventual goal, which is to improve on the impressive numbers that he posted in Year 1 as a Seahawk.
“I expect more production and to be a little more comfortable,” Peterson said. “And I expect that, across the board, everyone will be a lot more comfortable.”
Notes: The Seahawks added eight players to their practice squad on Sunday. Linebacker Cameron Jensen, defensive end Nu’i Tafisi, tight end Joe Newton, fullback David Kirtman, offensive lineman Steve Vallos and wide receivers Logan Payne and Jordan Kent all went to camp with the Seahawks and were added to the practice squad one day after being released. … The Seahawks currently have just two quarterbacks after Saturday’s release of David Greene and Derek Devine, but there are other options out there. Tim Rattay, who was cut by Tennessee on Saturday, has the most experience in a similar offense, having played under Mike Holmgren disciple Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. Green was released after the Seahawks acquired running back Alvin Pearman from Jacksonville.