The Seattle Seahawks finally ran out of patience with linebacker Aaron Curry.
The outside linebacker, selected No. 4 overall in the 2009 draft out of Wake Forest, confirmed Thursday that his role has changed. He said he has been demoted to second team on the depth chart, with rookie K.J. Wright working with the first unit during practice this week.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Curry said. “But it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. There’s a purpose behind everything, and I’ll find it and learn from it and take off running.”
The move comes after Curry, 25, struggled against Pittsburgh last week, including dropping an interception in the second quarter that potentially could have been returned for a touchdown.
Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said it’s an open competition at outside linebacker, and that the team wanted to take a closer look at Wright with the starting unit.
Wright started the first game of the season at middle linebacker for David Hawthorne, who sat out with a knee injury.
“K.J. Wright has played very well for us, especially in that first game,” Bradley said. “And we just felt like we wanted to have more competition at that spot, so we’re giving K.J. a chance there yesterday, and we looked at him today. And we’ll evaluate it the whole week.
“As you know, the model here is competition. We just felt like we needed to stress that position even more.”
Curry said it’s the first time that he can remember in his football playing career that he’s been benched because of performance. In a game against Navy during Curry’s junior year at Wake Forest, he did not start the first quarter as a disciplinary measure for missing class.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens on Sunday,” Curry said. “All questions will be answered on Sunday, really.
“It’s a special situation,” he added. “But it is what it is. All I can do is show up and be me every day.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll consistently praised and supported Curry from the first day he took over in January 2010. When he took the job, Carroll said one of his first priorities was to find a way to best use the raw athletic talents of Curry, a 6-2, 255-pound linebacker.
Considered by many draft analysts as the safest pick in the 2009 draft, Curry’s athleticism has never translated into consistent production on the football field. He often found himself out of position and did not create explosive plays defensively.
For the most part Curry has been healthy, playing in 32 of 34 possible games, including 30 starts. And he’s been a model citizen off the field. But Curry’s production has not lived up to his lofty draft status.
Through two games this season, Curry is tied for third on the team in tackles with 11. Curry has 51/2 sacks and one interception, in the playoffs last season against Chicago, to his credit in two-plus seasons. He finished fifth on the team in tackles with 73 in 2010.
While Curry has floundered, other linebackers taken after him in his same draft class have flourished. Washington’s Brian Orakpo (selected No. 13), Houston’s Brian Cushing (No. 15) and Green Bay’s Clay Mathews (No. 26) all have a Pro Bowl to their credit in young careers.
Earlier this season during training camp the Seahawks restructured Curry’s contract, making it easier to part ways with the underperforming linebacker at season’s end if they choose.
Curry agreed to cut his rookie deal from six to four years. In return for giving up $5 million in guaranteed salary Curry’s due to make in 2012, he can become a free agent at the end of that season – two years earlier at the age of 27.
By season’s end, Curry will have been paid $28.25 million in guaranteed money over three seasons of the six-year, $60 million deal he signed with Seattle’s previous regime in August 2009.
Because Curry’s salary is not guaranteed in 2012, the Seahawks could release him in February without any further financial obligation. The restructured deal also could make it easier for Seattle to move Curry in a trade.
The Seahawks selected Wright in the fourth round of this year’s draft. At 6-4, 246 pounds, Wright was drafted to ensure depth behind Curry. But linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. placed Wright at middle linebacker behind Hawthorne because of his instincts.
Further, the Seahawks thought learning that position would speed up Wright’s development because he would have to learn all of the defensive calls.
After Wright’s first start at San Francisco, Carroll raved about his performance.
The Seahawks attempted to make Curry more of a pass rusher his first two years in the league because of his natural speed off the edge. But they returned Curry to his traditional role as an outside linebacker playing back in pass coverage, which seemed more comfortable to Curry.
But the Seahawks seem to think that Wright is ultimately a better fit for what they want to do in their scheme. Bradley said Wright’s feel for the linebacker position has been outstanding since training camp, and is the reason they decided to give him this opportunity.
“He’s very instinctive and plays very smart, situational football,” Bradley said. “And he’s detailed. He’s just a real good football player. And so we’re just taking a look at that spot and giving him a chance to play SAM (strong-side, outside linebacker) and see how he fits there.”
Obviously Curry is frustrated, but Bradley said he’s handling the situation well.
“He’s good,” Bradley said. “He’s professional. I mean I’m sure he doesn’t like it, and doesn’t like the situation. But he’s responded well. He goes out there and he practices hard. He’s been a true professional.”
Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock said he intends to appeal a $15,000 fine handed down by the NFL for his late hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Safety Chris Maragos has been signed to the practice squad. Cornerback Ron Parker was released to clear a spot. Offensive tackle Jarriel King (ankle), fullback Michael Robinson (ankle) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle) did not practice. Receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (hamstring) fully participated in practice.