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A Tru transition
Marcus Trufant settles into that oh-so-familiar stance as the quarterback begins his cadence. At the snap of the ball, Trufant starts to his right, only to detect something that makes him dart back to his left. He arrives at the intended receiver at the same moment as the ball, slapping the pass incomplete.
Of all the things Trufant has done for the Seahawks in his nine-season career – which is a lot – he’s never done this. Not make a play. That has become routine, as Trufant has tackled (604), picked (21) and tipped (113) his way into the franchise’s Top 10 in all three categories.
But for the first time in his career, Trufant is playing as the nickel back during the team’s OTA practices.
|MARCUS TRUFANT: BY THE NUMBERS|
1: Number of Pro Bowls (2007)
“It’s brand new,” Trufant said Friday, after the Seahawks wrapped up the second week of their OTA sessions. “It’s a lot of carryover, but it is new. So I’m learning on the fly. I’m in the film room. I’m just trying to get better at it.
“It’s a process. I’ll be all right, though.”
It’s not only a different role for Trufant – a fixture as a starter, mostly on the left side, since the Seahawks made him the 11th pick overall in the 2003 NFL Draft – it requires different skills. He obviously has played in the nickel, just not as the third corner who covers the slot receiver.
“It’s different from the standpoint that it’s not 100 miles an hour, like it is out on the corner,” he said. “It slows down a little bit and you’ve got to see a bigger picture. It’s just not you and the receiver. I’ve got to see the running back. I’ve got to see the quarterback. I’ve got to see everybody.”
Roy Lewis knows, because he has played the nickel spot in his first three seasons with the Seahawks – as well as corner and, in the OTA practices, safety.
“It’s a different world in there,” Lewis said. “It’s a different set of eyes. It’s a different train of thought. It’s a different technique. To really play inside, you basically are telling a guy he has to guard a third of the field – but watch the deep ball, too.
“So it is a different world, and for a guy who’s been playing outside it may be a little bit of a challenge.”
But it sounds like a challenge that plays to the strengths of Trufant, who always has moved well in tight spaces and is a sure tackler.
“You’ve got to be able to react to the stuff you see,” he said. “The guys in front of you, the guys behind you, you’ve got to be able to feel it. So it’s a feel position, but you’ve also got to be able to see a lot.”
What have the coaches seen from Trufant in his new role? “He still has fabulous quickness, and that’s what we’re going to rely on – from a veteran player who has seen a lot of football to be able to go in and figure things out,” secondary coach Kris Richard said.
“And yes, he has not done it before. But it’s still football and he’s still a fantastic football player. Of course there’s a learning curve and growth process that we all go through when we’re learning a new position and getting into a new spot. But he’s picking it up pretty quick and really well.”
Trufant is spending this spring learning a new role because of what transpired last season. When a back problem forced him to go on injured reserve after four games, and backup Walter Thurmond also was lost to a season-ending ankle injury, rookie Richard Sherman stepped into the lineup and used his long limbs to wrap up the starting job.
Trufant was actually released in March, but then re-signed in April. But rather than returning as the cornerstone of the secondary – he has shared it with 18 other starters in his career – Trufant steps into a unit that is in transition. Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas is a third-year starter, while Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor, Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner and Sherman stepped into the lineup last season.
So Trufant is left to learn a new position, and new techniques.
“I had kind of an idea. They said they were going to try and work me in there,” he said. “But it’s a learning curve. I’m trying to take it as every day is an experience to learn something new. So every day I’m just trying to get better.
“I’m trying to learn in a hurry and I’m trying to get ready.”
As Trufant has shown in the past, don’t bet against him doing just that. And if Trufant is the nickel back in a secondary that is now very long, very athletic and very physical, well, as veteran linebacker Leroy Hill says, “It’s pretty scary.”
Trufant smiled when told of Hill’s assessment.
“When it works, it works,” Trufant said. “It could be a good look.”