At a recent offseason workout, Marcus Trufant quickly broke on a pass out in the flat, swatting it away from rookie receiver Jermaine Kearse before he could haul it in.
That’s the feeling Trufant longed for while watching from the sideline most of the 2011 season because of a balky back.
“I learned that I love football because I missed it sitting out,” said Trufant, who has fought back issues since 2009 and was placed on the season-ending injured reserve with a bruised sacrum after four games last season.
The Wilson High graduate has played for the hometown Seahawks since Seattle drafted him out of Washington State No. 11 overall in 2003.
But Trufant’s nine-year career hit a crossroads this offseason, when he and the team decided to part ways in March.
Trufant still had two years left on a six-year, $50 million deal he signed in March of 2008 after his first and only Pro Bowl season when the Seahawks asked him to restructure his contract.
Trufant took a pay cut from $5.9 million to $3 million in base salary, although he could have earned most of the money back in incentives.
Trufant was due to make $7.2 million in base salary in 2012, along with a $100,000 workout bonus. But his production had waned the past two seasons, and Seattle decided to release him, allowing Trufant to hit the free-agent market.
Trufant visited Denver, where he found a familiar face in Broncos defensive backs coach Ron Milus, a former Lincoln High of Tacoma and University of Washington standout defensive back.
Faced with a similar situation of competing to be a third cornerback in Denver or Seattle, Trufant said he chose to stay home and not uproot his wife, Jessica, and three daughters. He signed a one-year, $1 million deal to remain with the Seahawks.
Trufant is the longest-tenured player on the team and, along with linebacker Leroy Hill, one of two players remaining from Seattle’s run to Super Bowl XL following the 2005 season.
“I figured with it being the same situation I might as well stay home,” Trufant said. “I’d be able to keep my family here. I’m familiar with the team, the coaches and the players and everything. So it was just an easier move.”
Trufant’s also learning a new position. With Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman thriving in his absence last year, Trufant will move inside and serve as Seattle’s nickel back in passing situations.
Green Bay’s Charles Woodson and St. Louis’ Cortland Finnegan are two examples of veteran cornerbacks who have successfully made similar transitions later in their careers.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment,” Trufant said about the new position. “You’ve got to see a little bit more. You’re not as focused on the wide receiver – you have to see the quarterback, you have to see the running back and you have to see the receiver. So you have a little bigger window.
“But I’m learning it, and it’s fun. You get to show on the line and do a little bit of blitzing, so it’s a good look.”
The Seahawks used five defensive backs 40 percent of the time last season, so Trufant should see a lot of time on the field in that role.
So far, Seattle coach Pete Carroll has liked what he has seen.
“He’s picking it up,” Carroll said. “He’s really working hard at it. There are a lot of nuances about this thing that he never had to pay attention to before, so he’s learning kind of like a first-timer. But he has so much savvy and ability, we think that it could be a great spot for him.”
At 31 years old, Trufant said he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll play.
“For as long as these legs will let me run,” he joked. “The team made great strides last year, so everyone is looking to get better. We’ve got a young, energetic squad. So I just want to get some of that juice, and I want to keep playing.”
And Trufant might have some more motivation to stick around at least for a couple more seasons.
Younger brother Isaiah Trufant is fighting to remain on the New York Jets’ roster as a defensive back for a second season. And with youngest brother Desmond, a senior-to-be at the University of Washington, projected by NFLDraftScout.com to be a third-to-fourth-round draft choice, there’s a chance that all three brothers could be playing in the NFL at the same time in 2013.
“That would be great,” Trufant said. “Now, I’m in the NFL. Isaiah is in the NFL. Dez has a year left in college, so he needs to handle his business, and that’s the same as far as me and Isaiah. We’ve got to take care of business, make the team and do well.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8437 blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams