RENTON — As much as he might like to, Bruce Irvin can’t dispute the nickname he has been given this season in the Seahawks’ locker room — OG.
That nickname can mean a few different things, of course.
But that it speaks to the fact that Irvin has been around for a while is unmistakable.
“I’ve got to get used to it, man,” Irvin said with a bit of resignation when he met the media Monday via Zoom.
Indeed, facts don’t lie.
Irvin, 32, is older than all but three other Seahawks as he begins his second stint with the team, trailing only tight end Greg Olsen (35) and offensive linemen Duane Brown (34) and Mike Iupati (33).
“When I was here (from 2012-15) I was calling Big Red (Red Bryant) and Clem (Chris Clemons) OG,” Irvin said. “Now I’ve got Jamal Adams and guys like that calling me OG.
“Am I really old? I just don’t get it. But it is what it is.”
Not that he necessarily feels his age.
During practice last week, Irvin spotted a six-foot tackling dummy and leaped over it, the kind of thing he used to do regularly during his first stint with the team and something that caused then-linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. to say during the Legion of Boom heyday in 2014 that Irvin was the team’s best athlete.
“If we were picking a team for Turkey Day Thanksgiving against the neighborhood the first pick would be Bruce,” Norton said then. ” … He can probably throw a ball 80 yards. He can stand right here and do a back flip. He can stand on his head and do a handstand for 40 minutes.”
The leap over the tackling dummy last week, Irvin said, was a blatant attempt to show that nothing has changed.
“I just read all these things about, you know, ‘He’s old, he’s lost his stuff,’ ” he said. “And it’s just crazy to me, because, you know, I’ve never, knock on wood, I’ve never had any crazy injuries. I don’t miss games. …
“I really did that so y’all really could see that, honestly, because I knew that y’all was watching. I’m like, you know, ‘These folks think I’m old. So let me just show them I still got some juice in me.’ “
The Seahawks are banking on it. Irvin is the biggest investment the team made — in terms of free-agent money, anyway — to improve a pass rush that was Seattle’s biggest defensive question mark entering the offseason.
After a season in which he had a career-high 8.5 sacks with Carolina, the Seahawks signed Irvin to a one-year deal worth up to $5.9 million.
Seattle later added another member of the 2013 Super Bowl team — Benson Mayowa — to boost the pass rush and drafted ends Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson.
But it’s Irvin whose salary and pedigree — 52 sacks in eight NFL seasons — peg him as the most sure thing to improve on a 28-sack total in 2019 that was among the lowest in team history and second-fewest in the NFL a year ago.
And coach Pete Carroll says Irvin, who missed Saturday’s mock game because of a slight hip-flexor injury but was back to full-go Monday, is showing every sign of being the same impact player he was during his first Seattle stint.
“Bruce has had a fantastic start to this camp,” Carroll said. “He’s really off and flying.”
The Seahawks hope to get the same athlete as they had with Irvin during his first stint, though Irvin says he’s a different person.
He’s eight years older than when he arrived as the 15th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. He also gotten married and started a family, putting further into the rearview mirror the teenage years when he was briefly homeless in Atlanta and spent three weeks in a detention center on a charge of suspicion of burglary that was later dropped.
“I was supposed to be in jail or dead somewhere,” Irvin said in 2015.
But even in 2012, when he arrived in Seattle, Irvin said it was tempting to get caught up in the younger man’s lifestyle of “cars, jewelry, stuff like that.”
Now, Irvin said, his “why” for living is “my wife, my kids, my family. … I was fortunate I was able to see the light and kind of transition away from that and just focus on what really matters.”
He also admits he didn’t truly appreciate what he had in Seattle the first time around, playing for a defense that led the NFL each of his four years.
He departed as a free agent following the 2015 season after having made it clear he was upset the team hadn’t picked up an option for a fifth year on his contract following the 2014 season. Irvin signed with Oakland in the spring of 2016 and has since also played for Atlanta and Carolina.
Now that he’s back with the team that drafted him he’s talking as if he’s finally realized there really is no place like home.
“This is a very special place,” Irvin said. “And it took me to leave here to really notice that, you know. I was a young guy who, when I was here I was saying, ‘Man, you know, I want to see how it is on another team.
” … And when I got to other teams I really realized that it’s really a good situation over here. Guys hold each other accountable, hold themselves accountable. And I mean that’s what you want, each guy believing in one goal and being connected and trying to get this thing accomplished, man, and bring another (Super Bowl) trophy back to Seattle.”