Proving, though, that there are simply some things that happen on an NFL field that nothing can really prepare a player for, Trufant found himself sprawled on his back before he knew it.
“A big tight end (Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham) came into the flat and I just tried to come up and just take a shot on him and just got completely ran over,” Trufant recalled Wednesday of the first play of his first game in the pre-season. “That was kind of my ‘welcome to the NFL’ thing.’’
Once he came to, though, he remembered that his brother Marcus’ career began similarly with the Seahawks in 2003.
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“It was like a sweep and a guard came up and kind of just flattened him on his first play, too,’’ Desmond Trufant said.
Again following in the family tradition, Desmond Trufant quickly dusted himself off and got on with the task at hand.
And as the Falcons prepare to host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Trufant has been everything they hoped he would be when they took him in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, a rare bright light in a season of disappointment for an Atlanta team that began the year thinking Super Bowl but now is 2-6.
Trufant, a graduate of Wilson High who started the last four years for the Washington Huskies, has started every game at right cornerback and leads the team with eight passes defensed and got his first interception last week at Carolina.
“He’s probably the most mature rookie that I’ve been around,’’ said Atlanta coach Mike Smith, who also called Trufant the leader of the team’s larger-than-expected group of first-year contributors on defense.
Smith said he has little doubt that Trufant’s upbringing helped prepare him for making the jump from college to the NFL.
Trufant is the younger brother of Marcus Trufant, who played for Seattle from 2003-12 and is currently out of the league after being released by Jacksonville earlier this year; and Isaiah Trufant, who is in his third season as a cornerback with the Jets.
“I mean, it’s never going to be easy, making that transition,’’ he said. “But I felt I was definitely prepared and I kind of had a jump on what was going to happen.’’
He also credits the vast responsibility Washington gave him to play man defense — particularly as a senior in 2012 when he was often assigned to cover roughly half the field — for getting him prepped for the NFL.
“I had a great foundation from my coaches at UW, and I brought that with me to the NFL,” he said.
What he will also bring with him onto the field this week is a friendly rivalry with Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse, a graduate of Lakes. Kearse said they have been playing against each other since fourth grade. For three years at UW, they were teammates on game days but opponents during practices. Kearse, a year older, was called Wednesday by Trufant as “like a mentor to me.”
Said Kearse: “Our rivalry, it was feisty. … But that’s the type of stuff you need. You need a player to push you, and he definitely pushed me at UW as I tried to do for him.”
Trufant often lines up alongside veteran and four-time Pro Bowl pick Asante Samuel, who plays the left corner.
The Falcons, though, haven’t tried to lessen any of the load on Trufant. The last two weeks, when Atlanta faced Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Carolina’s Steve Smith, the Falcons let Trufant go man-to-man on the two vets when the plays called for it.
After Sunday’s game, Smith praised Trufant, saying, according to ESPN, “you can tell (Desmond’s) brothers have taught him a lot of stuff.’’
Some things, though, he had to learn on his own.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin still hasn’t returned to practice, but coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday he is confident that Harvin will play this season.
Harvin had surgery on his hip before the season started and returned to practice last month. But he had a setback before the St. Louis game and his return date is still undetermined.
“We just have to do it right because we want him to finish the season with us and not have this be an issue,” Carroll said.
Harvin worked out before Wednesday’s practice but didn’t participate.
• Center Max Unger and defensive end Red Bryant, who both suffered concussions Sunday, didn’t practice Wednesday. Their status for Sunday’s game at Atlanta is unknown. DL Jordan Hill also sat out with a biceps injury.
• Carroll said the NFL said the pass-interference call on Earl Thomas that wiped out an interception shouldn’t have been called.
• Safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring), who hasn’t played since the Arizona game, returned to practice Wednesday.
• Offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini practiced on Wednesday, but Okung isn’t eligible to play in games yet and Carroll said he isn’t expecting Giacomini to be ready by Sunday.