By Brady Henderson
Marcus Trufant knew his advancing age and balky back made him less valuable to a team that is committed to getting younger and willing to make difficult decisions in order to do so. So did the emergence of younger, less expensive cornerbacks.
If you were surprised to see Trufant return to the Seahawks a month after his release, you weren't alone.
"I didn't really think I'd be back, either. Things kinda fell into place and that's how it happened," Trufant told "The Kevin Calabro Show" on Tuesday, eight days after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Seahawks. "Just because of how things kinda worked out as far as my injuries and with the guys -- they played real well last year -- so it didn't really seem like there was a spot for me."
The Seahawks released Trufant last month, cutting ties with their oldest and longest-tenured player. Trufant was scheduled to make $7.2 and $8.8 million in base salary in the final two years of his contract, which was a lot of money for a 31-year-old cornerback who had missed most of last season while Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman emerged in his absence.
Trufant said he nearly signed with the Broncos after a free-agent visit in Denver. Instead, he decided to rejoin the Seahawks for a 10th season.
"Some things happened and I ended up getting a chance to come back," he said, "and I've got an opportunity to play a little bit."
"A little bit" might be the operative words as far as the role Trufant will have next season. Browner and Sherman likely cemented their status as starters with breakout seasons in 2011. Sherman, a rookie fifth-round pick, had four interceptions after entering the starting lineup in Week 8. Browner, in his first NFL season, had a team-high six interceptions and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl as an injury alternate.
Trufant could only watch while recovering from another back injury that ended his season after four games.
"It was tough being on the sideline, not being able to help and not being able to play, man," Trufant said. "I've played for a long time but I've never missed that much time of football, so it was tough."
Trufant seems to be fine with a reduced role, perhaps as a situational cornerback in Seattle's nickel defense and other packages. He should be valuable to a team that has only one other defensive back with more than two years of NFL experience.
"Everybody has a different role to play. Sherm, he played off the charts last year, and that's the same with Browner," Trufant said. "So I've got a role to play. I'm [going to] always compete, but I know I have a role to play and that's what I plan to do."
That would be a much different role than Trufant is used to. He has been a starter ever since the Seahawks drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2003. His nine-year career in Seattle has included 21 interceptions, a Pro Bowl appearance and a $50.2 million contract. It has also included injuries that have caused him to miss 18 games over the last three seasons.
Trufant was asked what percentage of his old self he thinks he can be this season.
"That's a good question. I am 31 years old, and of course I'm proud of it," he said. "I'm feeling good, man. I guess you can't go back in time. I'm not exactly the same player, but I'm feeling good and I feel like I can get close to that and that's what I'm trying to do."