Come Saturday afternoon, Ben Burr-Kirven knows where he will be — back in familiar surroundings on the sideline at Husky Stadium to watch the Huskies’ season opener against Eastern Washington.
What the Seahawks’ rookie linebacker might not know by the noon kickoff is where he could be taking his next snap in the NFL.
Burr-Kirven, the 2018 Pac-12 defensive player of the year for the Huskies, made a strong final statement in his bid to earn one of the Seahawks’ final roster spots ahead of the leaguewide cutdown deadline at 1 p.m. local time Saturday.
He had a game-high 12 tackles in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Oakland at CenturyLink Field — including one impressive sack of Mike Glennon on a fourth-and-goal play at the 1-yard line. Burr-Kirven also had another tackle for loss, a pass breakup in the backfield and another QB hit in which he was (curiously) flagged for roughing the passer.
“I did everything I could out there,” Burr-Kirven said. “At the end of the day it’s up to them. I’ll go home, go to sleep and hopefully get some good news.”
For Husky fans, it was a familiar sight — “BBK” making plays all over the field, fielding play-calls from coaches and directing the rest of the defense from the middle-linebacker position.
“That was awesome,” said Seahawks second-year tight end Will Dissly, a teammate of Burr-Kirven’s at UW. “You could just see it, man. He’s got great command of the defense. That’s something coaches have noticed and that’s something we’ve all noticed — his ability to communicate. He’s done a good job leading that (reserve) team.”
Coaches and veteran linebackers have praised both rookie linebackers — Burr-Kirven and Cody Barton, a third-round pick — for their ability to quickly pick up their defensive assignments and for their leadership. Burr-Kirven and Barton were roommates during training camp, and each has said they’ve benefited from learning the Seahawks’ defense together.
“I don’t look like a MIKE linebacker,” said Burr-Kirven, listed at 6 feet and 230 pounds, “but that’s what I’ve played for a long time now, from high school through college. So I take pride in being able to hopefully lead those guys and do everything I can to help everyone be in the best position to make plays. And if something gets messed up, it’s on me. I’m happy to take that responsibility.”
Did he do enough to convince the Seahawks to keep him around?
“He had a huge game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He was making plays everywhere. It’s really important for him. He’s trying to make the club. We’ll take a look at all that. He had a great opportunity to play all night long. He was up for it.”
As a senior at UW last year, Burr-Kirven led the nation in tackles, with 176, and earned first-team All-America recognition. The Seahawks selected him the fifth round of April’s draft, but less than two weeks later he learned he had a sports-hernia injury that required surgery in mid-May.
What was initially supposed to be a six-week recovery dragged on into the first week of training camp in late July. It set Burr-Kirven back among the rookie class.
“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before, where I had to deal with something for an extended period of time.”
He became a regular on special teams during the first three preseason games, and if he does make the 53-man roster he knows that’s where he will have his biggest impact as a rookie.
But he also showed Thursday night he can certainly provide some depth at either inside-linebacker position.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to stay in Seattle,” he said. “Hopefully I’ve shown I can play in this league.”