Elite NFL cornerbacks occasionally have a tendency to light Twitterverse on fire.
One day, it is Arizona star Patrick Peterson maliciously criticizing Washington newcomer Josh Norman on social media. On another day, it is Seattle team leader Richard Sherman bitingly comparing his résumé to that of New York Jets veteran Darrelle Revis.
It’s a left-on-an-island-by-yourself thing, you know.
But this past week, one emerging defensive back returned home to the Pacific Northwest. Desmond Trufant, the Wilson High School and University of Washington product, is in his fourth season with the Atlanta Falcons. Quietly, he is establishing one of the better reputations as a cover man in the league.
Instead of returning home after their victory over Denver last weekend, the Falcons came to Seattle on Monday, and practiced all week at Husky Stadium — the site of so many mind-blowing plays that Trufant made in purple and gold.
After spending down time with his parents and brothers back in Tacoma on Monday night, Trufant sent out one tweet this week:
It published Wednesday: “Was back at Husky Stadium today where it all started.”
What kind of trash-talking is that leading up to his Sunday showdown against the Seahawks?
“Social media is cool, but I am not really out there like that,” Trufant said at his locker Wednesday after practice. “I am more like the turn-on-the-film, turn-the-game-on-the-TV-and-you’ll-see-me (type).”
After drafting Trufant No. 22 overall in the 2013 NFL draft, the Falcons quickly signed him to a four-year, $8.16 million deal.
And then they immediately put him in the ring of fire. He had to defend budding superstar Julio Jones every day in practice.
“To be honest, he progressed me so much quicker because I had to go against him every day,” Trufant said. “He was killing me when I first got here. That had never happened to me before. But he really prepared me. Now it is nothing.”
In his first three seasons, Trufant received a top-10 rating for his play, according to Pro Football Focus.
In 2013, he led the NFL with 17 pass breakups.
Last season, no cornerback was targeted fewer times than Trufant. After being thrown at 180 times in his first two seasons, Trufant saw 56 passes come his way last year.
“It’s the competiveness that sets him apart,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. “He doesn’t like to be thrown at or thrown on.”
Trufant saves the fiery expression for the field.
“His thing is he competes every snap,” Jones said. “If you get him one time, he’s going to try and get you the next three times.”
And Trufant has picked up this season where he left off in 2015, when he made the Pro Bowl for the first time. Consider:
▪ In the first week against Tampa Bay, Trufant — who normally mans the left side of the field — tangled with Mike Evans. Evans had a touchdown, but Trufant picked off quarterback Jameis Winston at the Buccaneers 20-yard line.
▪ Against Oakland a week later, Trufant saw a lot of Amari Cooper, the second-year pro. Cooper made an acrobatic 25-yard catch on Trufant, but in the fourth quarter, the former UW defensive back showed his savviness by pushing Cooper out of bounds on what would have been a 51-yard, game-tying score. Cooper caught it, but was flagged for illegal touching after going out of bounds.
▪ In a third-week shootout at New Orleans on “Monday Night Football,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees went after Trufant eight times. Saints receivers caught two of the passes. Top receiver Brandin Cooks caught one pass for nine yards in five attempts against Trufant.
▪ The Falcons showed a little more trust in Trufant in Week 4 against Carolina, allowing him to shadow Kelvin Benjamin wherever he went on the field. Benjamin did catch a touchdown pass, but his overall line — three receptions, 39 yards — rendered him a nonfactor.
“I mean, I know what I am worth, and what I bring to the team,” Trufant said. “That is what I work for — to be one of the best. That is what I push myself for, and that is what I am striving for. I don’t look too deep into the (grading) numbers and how they rate me and things like that. I just know every day I will compete, and it is going to be hard to beat me.”