If you blinked, however, you probably missed him. Because Irvin not only is back, he’s determined to make up for his lost time. The proof was in the way he was whirling around the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center – regardless of whether he was lined up at the Leo end spot, the position Irvin played last season when he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks; or strong-side linebacker, the position he worked at during the offseason and in training camp.
How happy is Irvin to be back with his team and his teammates?
“My smile explains everything,” he said before practice. “It feels great. It was tough watching these guys for four weeks. But I paid my debt to society, now it’s time to get back to work.”
And the first quarterback Irvin will try to wrap up and bring down is Andrew Luck in Sunday’s game against the Colts in Indianapolis. Luck’s father, Oliver, is the athletic director at West Virginia. Did father ask Irvin to take it easy on son?
“He can say that, but I’m not on scholarship anymore,” Irvin said through yet another smile.
Irvin’s return seemed to have that effect on his coaches, too.
“We all know what he can add to our team – his presence, his speed, his big-play ability,” linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said after practice. “We’re really excited to get him back in the fold. Just watching him move around and talk, he’s really excited to be here.”
Irvin’s time away only made him realize just how much he missed the game, especially playing the game. He was in at 6 a.m. Wednesday to get in some extra video study. He also was in early on Tuesday, the players’ “off” day.
“Just talking to him, he really appreciates this game more,” Norton said. “Sometimes things have to happen to you to appreciate it.”
Offered Irvin, “Man, words can’t explain how tough it was watching these guys battle each and every week. … It was hard, but I made the best out of the situation and I got through it. Now I’m back.”
“We’re going to put him right in there. You’re going to see him right away. There’s no waiting,” Norton said. “He’s just going to jump right in there and play, and we’re really excited to get him going.”
Is that maybe expecting too much from a second-year player who’s in his first year of playing linebacker? After the month off due to the suspension and time missed before that because of a groin injury, is Irvin ready for everything Norton is talking about?
“Absolutely,” Norton said. “I mean that’s Bruce Irvin. Are you kidding me? He’s a first-round pick. That guy does everything. When you look up the picture of a linebacker, his face shows up. We’re really excited. He’s going to do it all. He’s going to be rushing the passer. He’s going to be playing the run. He’s going to buzzing to the flats. He’s going to be flying around. They’re going to be chanting his name – Bruuuce – on the road.”
And Irvin likely will be doing all that with a big smile on his face.