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A Tru warrior
Marcus Trufant, the nine-year veteran cornerback and longest-tenured member of the team was released Wednesday, in a move that general manager John Schneider called necessary.
“Out of respect for Marcus and his family, we’ve decided to release him today so that he has an opportunity to explore the full window of unrestricted free agency and the options that go along with it,” Schneider said in announcing the move.
“Marcus has done so much for this organization, but because of the changing landscape of the NFL, tough decisions have to be made and this is the correct thing to do at this time.”
Schneider met with Trufant before the decision was announced, and Schneider indicated that the team would monitor Trufant’s situation with the free-agency period beginning Tuesday and the NFL Draft set for April 26-28.
Trufant, 31, has personified the label “warrior” since being the 11th pick overall in 2003 draft out of Washington State. He stepped into the lineup as a rookie, and had 16-start seasons five times and 15-start seasons twice over the next eight years. But back injuries limited Trufant to four starts last season and nine in 2009.
In 2004, he became the only cornerback in franchise history to lead the team in tackles with a career-high 93. In 2007, he was voted to the Pro Bowl after intercepting a career-high seven passes and also making 85 tackles.
Trufant needed surgery on his right shoulder after each of his first two seasons, because he would lead with that side of his body while tackling. That prompted the move of Trufant from left cornerback to the right side for two seasons. But he moved back to the left side in 2007 after Jim Mora was hired to coach the defensive backs.
“I didn’t know his history of shoulder injuries,” Mora said at the time. “But I do know that the left side is where the premier cornerbacks in the league play. So that’s where Marcus belongs.”
And that’s where Trufant remained until his back problems forced him out of the lineup in 2009 and again last season.
It was during Trufant’s absence last season that younger corners stepped up and showed they could lead the defense into the future. Brandon Browner, the former All-CFL corner and starter on the right side, went to the Pro Bowl after his first season with the Seahawks. Fifth-round draft choice Richard Sherman took over for Trufant on the left side and was voted to the league’s All-Rookie team. The club also has the promising duo of Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell, draft choices the past two years.
But, as Schneider emphasized, Trufant has done so much for the franchise. He ranks fifth in career interceptions (21) and 10th in career tackles (604). Trufant also was voted the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team.
For his off-field contributions to the community, Trufant was named the team’s Man of the Year in 2006.
Trufant was an all-state selection at Tacoma’s Wilson High School before becoming an All-American and All-Pac-10 player at Washington State. The fact that he was able to continue his career in his home state and for his hometown NFL team was never lost on Trufant.
“I always say it’s like a storybook,” Trufant told Seahawks.com in 2010. “Most people don’t get to play in their hometown. God had a plan for me and it’s just playing out. It’s been good – the love and support I get, and I’m close to my family.”
Those who were part of Trufant’s Seahawks family never took him for granted, either.
“Tru’s got great feet,” said former wide receiver Bobby Engram, also a member of the 35th Anniversary team. “He plays the ball well. He probably closes on the ball better than anyone I ever played with. And when he picks it, he’s a former running back, so he will take it to the house on you.”
Trufant did that three times, returning an interception 84 yards for a score in 2007, another 32 yards for a TD in 2010 and a third 78 yards in the playoff victory over the Washington Redskins after the 2007 season.
“I enjoyed playing with Tru, and he’s a great person off the field, as well,” Engram said. “To me, that means just as much.”