It must be September. The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is dropping, and Rocky Bernard is dancing. The sight of the Seahawks'...
KIRKLAND — It must be September. The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is dropping, and Rocky Bernard is dancing.
The sight of the Seahawks’ defensive tackle shimmying and shaking after sacking a quarterback has become another Northwest harbinger that September has arrived.
It has turned into an annual autumnal rite — Bernard making quarterbacks fall like leaves from trees and then shoulder-shuddering at the thought of what he has just done.
The rise of Bernard in the fall began in 2002, when he was named NFL defensive rookie of the month after four sacks in September. After a forgettable 2003 season, he jumped out to a fast start again last year, when he had three sacks in the first three games. And he’s doing it again this season, with a sack in each of the first two contests.
After getting his first against Byron Leftwich in Seattle’s 26-14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bernard added his second against Michael Vick during the Seahawks’ 21-18 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
On the last play of the third quarter, Bernard broke through a double-team and planted Vick in the pocket for a 7-yard loss on first down.
Then Bernard got jiggy with it, going down to a knee and performing his shoulder shimmy. He has no name for the dance, but some teammates have referred to it as the “Sugar Bear Shake.”
Bernard got to shake it just once on Sunday, but he had several near-misses that shook Vick.
“He’s just so elusive,” Bernard said of Vick. “He’s a tremendous athlete. You have to keep working. You just can’t stop because he’s going to run around; he’s usually going to come back to you.”
When Vick didn’t come back, Bernard went after him.
On a third-and-7 early in the first quarter, Vick rolled to his left, and Bernard penetrated and nearly brought the quarterback down. With the 6-foot-3, 293-pound Seahawk wrapped around his ankles, Vick was unable to complete his pass.
In the second quarter, Bernard chased Vick out of the pocket toward the sideline and forced another incompletion.
In the third quarter, the defensive tackle buried Vick, who had been chased from the pocket by linebacker Jamie Sharper, as the quarterback threw another incomplete pass.
And, immediately after his sack at the end of the third quarter, Bernard was nipping at Vick’s heels again on the first play of the fourth quarter as he ran to the right sideline.
Bernard’s effort was a big part of the Seahawks’ success in stopping the league’s most dynamic player. And it was a product of a good rotation system with the team’s four defensive tackles as Bernard and Craig Terrill alternate with starters Marcus Tubbs and Chuck Darby.
“I like it. It gives us a chance to stay fresh,” Bernard said. “It gives us a chance to go out and play hard. In the fourth quarter, usually you have to really pick up your pass rush.”
Coach Mike Holmgren has noticed Bernard’s rush to get to the passer.
“He is around the ball. He’s made plays,” Holmgren said. “He seems to be having fun out there. He’s smiling a little bit more out there, at practice even. When you have success — you get a sack, you make a tackle — you start feeling better and you feel good. Success breeds success.”
Bernard hopes his success is bred to last past September for once because, in his first three seasons, he has tallied just 2.5 sacks after the first month.
“I don’t know what it is, man. I hope I can get it in October, November and December,” Bernard said with a laugh. “September, I just always get off to a fast start. Then I slow down a little bit. So hopefully it will just keep going throughout the whole season this way.”
• Seattle placed WR Alex Bannister on injured reserve yesterday with a broken right collarbone, meaning Bannister will miss the rest of the season. Bannister, a 2003 NFC special-teams Pro Bowl selection, missed the last 10 games of last season with the same injury.
• The team signed cornerback-return specialist Jimmy Williams to take Bannister’s place on the 53-man active roster. Williams is in his fifth NFL season after being cut by San Francisco earlier this month. Williams’ longest punt return of his career came against the Seahawks for the 49ers on Dec. 1, 2002, an 89-yard touchdown.
• The Seahawks added WR Richard Smith to their practice squad and released WR Kendrick Starling. Smith played in four games for Kansas City last season.
• Approximately 1,200 tickets remain for the Seahawks’ game against the Arizona Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Qwest Field. Tickets may be purchased at the stadium, at www.seahawks.com, or by calling 206-622-HAWK.
Chris Cluff: 206-464-8787 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Times staff reporter José Miguel Romero contributed to this report..