Brock Coyle was ready when the Seahawks needed him

Posted Jul 29, 2014

When leading tackler Bobby Wagner left Tuesday’s training camp practice with a tight hamstring, rookie free agent Brock Coyle stepped in at middle linebacker and the Seahawks’ defense didn’t miss a beat.

Ken Norton, Jr. reminds the Seahawks’ backup linebackers on an almost daily basis about the importance of being ready to step in whenever needed.

During Tuesday’s practice at the team’s training camp presented by Bing, rookie Brock Coyle discovered why. When two-time leading tackler Bobby Wagner felt a hamstring tighten while chasing running back Robert Turbin up the sideline, guess who stepped in at middle linebacker on a defense that led the NFL in average points and yards allowed last season?

That’s right; it was Coyle, a free-agent from Montana who signed with the Seahawks after not being selected in May’s NFL Draft.

As has been the case so often in the past few seasons for the defending Super Bowl champions, Coyle didn’t just step in, he – all together now – stepped up. And he did it not only in the base defense, but also in the nickel package used on passing downs.

On back-to-back plays in the 7-on-7 drill, quarterback Russell Wilson dumped the ball off to Turbin and fellow running back Christine Michael. Each time, the 6-foot-1, 243-pound Coyle was there to thump them almost as soon as the ball settled into their hands. On another play, Coyle rocked rock-solid tight end Zach Miller with a well-timed and well-placed shot.

And so it went for the rest of practice, with Coyle in the middle of a unit that includes the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas, the disruptive trio of linemen Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Brandon Mebane and versatile and productive linebacker K.J. Wright.

Coyle played like he belonged in this impressive company, and that’s why Norton was smiling as the players and coaches left the practices on the shores of Lake Washington.

“It’s amazing, he had a fantastic practice,” said Norton, a former All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker and the only player in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls in a 13-season career that was split between the Dallas Cowboys (1988-93) and San Francisco 49ers (1994-2000).

Norton wasn’t amazed that Coyle was able to do what he did, because he has liked the linebacker since before the draft. The satisfaction in this situation came from Coyle showing while working with the No. 1 defense the same traits he had displayed while lining up with the second and third units.

“Coyle has been a guy that a lot of people have been talking about,” Norton said. “Now he has the opportunity. And when opportunity knocks, you’d better answer.”

Enter Coyle, who followed that knock of opportunity by knocking some people around during a practice that was televised live on ESPN.

“He’s ready for it,” Norton said. “He’s been eager. He’s been really studying.”

And this wasn’t a one-practice proposition. Wagner could miss a few days, and outside linebackers Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin and Korey Toomer remain sidelined, so we’ll all see more of the kid from Bozeman.

“This is why I’m here,” Coyle said. “With coach Norton, we don’t want to skip a beat – especially for me being a rookie. You want to come in there and show the coaches that I can play, show them that if Bobby goes down I can come in and help out.”

Wagner’s take? “Brock did really well,” he said. “It was obvious he’s been studying and been watching. He was flying around and making a lot of plays. I was just glad to see it.”

But who is this guy with the broad shoulders and kid-next-door looks? An all-state player at Bozeman High School, Coyle then led the Grizzlies in tackles during his junior and senior seasons at the University of Montana – including a career-high 125 last season.

The Seahawks brought him in for a pre-draft visit, but when he went undrafted Coyle jumped at the chance to sign with them.

“When I came out for my visit, I just fell in love with the place,” he said. “I knew when I talked to coach Norton that he demands the most out of his players because he wants the best for them. And I also knew that if I began my career on the best team in the NFL that’s a pretty good start as well.”

And that was before Coyle met the other linebackers – Wagner, Wright, Smith, Irvin and veteran Heath Farwell.

“I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better group to come in and learn under,” Coyle said. “The veterans are so helpful. They’re such great teammates, great guys and great players. I feel so comfortable asking them for help.”

The Seahawks also jumped at the chance to sign Coyle. Asked what he likes about Coyle, Norton flipped through a mental checklist that included, “Size. Strength. He’s really smart. Tough. Reliable. Moves well.”

But Norton saved the topper for last: “He loves playing ball. He just can’t get enough football. And that’s how we like them.”

Coyle used the terms “passion” and “effort” when asked he brings to the mix.

“I love the game of football,” he said. “I just want to come out every day and I can control my effort. And that’s one thing I love about this program is, that’s the one thing they want to see is effort first. I can do that. I can control my effort and I can go out and leave everything on this field.

“As coach says, ‘You come out here with a full tank and you want to leave with an empty tank.’ That’s what I try to do every day.”

Norton flashed another smile before adding, “We feel good about Brock. He’s got a lot of promise. He’s really showed himself and this is a great opportunity for him to show us who he is.”