Man in the middle

Posted Apr 23, 2012

After leading tackler David Hawthorne signed with the Saints in free agency, the Seahawks acquired veteran Barrett Ruud to fill the void at middle linebacker.

Yes, Barrett Ruud felt a little like the new kid in school during the first week of the Seahawks’ offseason program.

“You do a little bit. You’re a little bit lost,” said Ruud, the middle linebacker who was signed in free agency after playing last season with the Tennessee Titans and his first six NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“But I did the same thing last year, so I’m kind of used to it now.”

An even stranger sensation, however, is Ruud’s ongoing recovery from the groin, knee and shoulder injuries that plagued him last season.

“I’d never been hurt before,” he said. “Then, last year all I did was get hurt. I’d never missed a game before last year. So it feels like I’ve been out forever.”

The 6-fot-2, 241-pound Ruud has inherited the same number (57) and even cubicle in the locker room from David Hawthorne, the player he is penciled in to replace after the team’s three-time leading tackler signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency.

“We’ve got to get him healthy first,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday, when the players kicked off Week 2 of Phase 1 in the offseason program. “He’s coming back from all of that. He is working out and doing a lot of stuff, but we’re going to be very careful in bringing him back.”

Ruud, 28, brings experience, familiarity with the scheme – he and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley were in Tampa together from 2006-08 – and proven productivity. He registered 100-plus tackles from 2007-10, averaging 128 over the four seasons.

“The connection with Gus was very key to me coming here,” said Ruud, a second-round draft choice by the Bucs in 2005. “Unfortunately, I was pretty banged up last year. So you kind of have to have somebody that vouches for you, has been around you a lot and knows how you can recover and how you prepare.

“So knowing Gus and Todd Wash (the Seahawks defensive line coach who also came from the Bucs), those guys know I work pretty hard to recover from things and they have confidence in me.”

Ruud needed a friend, or two, after “getting caught in the CBA deal,” as he referred to the 136-day lockout, in free agency last year and then the injuries that began in the preseason and eventually ended his 2011 season.

“Barrett has a lot of experience,” Bradley said. “Even though we’re doing different things than we did in Tampa, there’s going to be some carryover in terms and how we approach things. So the carryover will surely benefit him.”

As it will the defensive coaches.

“We know him. We trust him. We know what he brings to the table,” Bradley said. “He’ll add strong competition to that spot. Not many teams were after him because he was still banged up, but we knew what he could do prior to that.

“So it’s a great situation. Let’s bring him and say, ‘OK, are we getting the Barrett Ruud that we saw in Tampa? That will bring great leadership to that (linebackers) room; has a great understanding of football.’ ” 

Ruud was on pace for another triple-digit tackle total last season, but was placed on injured reserve Dec. 13 because of the problems he played with throughout the season.

“When he gets full speed, he can play,” Carroll said. “He started six years in the NFL at (middle linebacker). So that’s a tremendous boost for us right now, knowing that we have a guy that understands the scheme, is bright, can lead us and call (the defense).

“But it’s going to take him a little while before he’s right.”

After last season, that’s Ruud’s goal this season – getting right, and getting back on the right track.

“I’ve played a lot of football, and I know how to play,” he said. “And I can still play at a high level. I feel great now and should be healthy in another month or so.

“Hopefully, I can be a big part of the team.”