RENTON — The Seahawks’ fifth practice of training camp ended Tuesday with Ben Burr-Kirven fulfilling an annual rite of passage for a rookie: carrying a veteran’s shoulder pads and helmet into the lockeroom.
On this day, Burr-Kirven had the task of hauling safety Bradley McDougald’s equipment, as well as his own.
What Burr-Kirven hopes to begin carrying soon, though, is his own weight on the field.
The last few months have been a frustrating time for the former University of Washington standout and 2018 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, who was a Seahawks fifth-round pick last April.
In May, shortly after he participated in Seahawks rookie minicamp, the team recommended that Burr-Kirven have sports-hernia surgery to clear up a lingering problem.
Burr-Kirven said he can’t pinpoint exactly when the injury happened — because he didn’t miss any games last season at Washington.
“It’s something where it’s really kind of hard to know because it’s not really a common thing where it comes in one moment,’’ he said. “It kind of happens over time. So it could have been brewing for years and I didn’t notice it. … It’s not a thing where you go, ‘Oh!’ You don’t pop something like that. So it’s a little bit of a unique injury that way.’’
The Seahawks told Burr-Kirven they wanted him to have the surgery in May so it wouldn’t get worse and he could be ready for the start of the regular season.
“From what I’ve heard, once you get it fixed, once you are back, it’s pretty iron-clad,’’ he said.
Burr-Kirven will find out for sure once he can get on the field and play some football again.
Once he had the surgery, he could do nothing but stand and watch during the team’s OTAs and minicamp. He was cleared to return to practice late last week and on Tuesday was in full uniform. But he has yet to take part in full team drills, doing only individual work.
It barely needs stating how rough that has been for Burr-Kirven, who missed only one game in four years at UW – the Heart of Dallas Bowl following his freshman season in 2015.
“This is the time you want to show guys what you are about, show them what type of player you are,’’ he said. “So it’s tough to have to miss the summer program and then getting back into camp and, you know, guys obviously know me personally but they don’t know the kind of player I am and I want to be out there and be able to show the guys why I’m here, why the Hawks drafted me, and show these guys I belong. So it’s definitely frustrating when you want to make your first impression a good one and you can’t.’’
That has left Burr-Kirven to do his work behind the scenes, studying film and picking the brains of veterans like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks.
Burr-Kirven said that each offers constant streams of advice. But just as helpful, he says, is simply observing them interact in the locker room.
“I try to listen when they are not even talking to me, when they are just having a conversation about whatever, whether it’s finances or housing or kids, or literally anything,’’ he said of Seattle’s starting trio of linebackers, who have each been in the NFL since at least 2012. “They have so much knowledge, they have been doing it for so long, they know the pitfalls before you come to them, that kind of thing. So it’s an opportunity to really learn how to be a man in the NFL and balance being a football player and also having a life. It’s a pretty special opportunity.’’
The film study involves preparing for what is a mostly new position for Burr-Kirven — weakside linebacker.
That’s the spot Wright plays now, as well as backups Austin Calitro, and at times, Shaquem Griffin (Griffin is also playing some strongside linebacker).
Burr-Kirven played middle linebacker at UW. But Seattle has Wagner there, as well as fast-rising fellow rookie Cody Barton, who also got some work earlier this week at strongside linebacker.
Burr-Kirven says there are similarities in what he’s going to be asked to do with the Seahawks and what his role was at UW, with the biggest difference being that he will have to play more in space and drop into coverage and defend passes.
“But it makes sense with the body type I have and the way our defense works,’’ Burr-Kirven said. “Right when I got here it made sense the way they play that position.’’
The football talk only continues when he goes back to his room at night, where his roommate for training camp — as it was for minicamp in the spring — is Barton.
He knew of Barton at Utah — the Huskies and Utes played twice last season — and the two have become fast friends since.
“Great guy,’’ Burr-Kirven says. “Super-smart kid.’’
Soon, maybe even later this week, Burr-Kirven will finally get a chance to join Barton and everyone else on the field.
“It’s going to be a lot of nerves, I think,’’ he said, anticipating his first snap in a full-scale NFL practice. “I think it’s probably going to feel like the first game of any season again because I’ve kind of been sidelined a long time. I can’t wait to get out there and show the guys the kind of player I am.’’