Seahawks, Lofa Tatupu cut ties
Goodbyes are seldom easy, but this one was tough even for linebackers. No, especially for linebackers. As Lofa Tatupu exited the Seahawks...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Some of the highlights during Lofa Tatupu's six years with Seattle
• Was named to the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons
• Was the first Seahawk to lead the team in tackles four straight seasons (2005-08)
• Was named All-Pro in 2007
• Made 22 tackles during Seattle's postseason run to the Super Bowl in 2005 season
• Returned from injury plagued season in 2009 to finish tied for second in total team tackles last year
RENTON — Goodbyes are seldom easy, but this one was tough even for linebackers.
No, especially for linebackers.
As Lofa Tatupu exited the Seahawks, his teammates for his six years in Seattle all felt the emotions of the moment.
"I choked up a little bit," linebacker Leroy Hill said.
He probably wasn't the only one in the city feeling that way, as the Seahawks said so long to the player who had captained the defense since his first season in Seattle. The team characterized Tatupu's release as a mutual agreement, and coach Pete Carroll did his best to honor Tatupu's contributions to the team even as he was asked why the team thought it best to move on.
"I'm not going to take you into the details of that," Carroll said. "But it was a few days of talking and really good conversations and putting things in perspective. ... I love Lofa as a football player, and I like him on our football team.
"But under the circumstances right now, it was just the right thing to do."
The Seahawks had asked Tatupu to take a pay cut last week. He was scheduled to make more than $4 million in 2011, and Seattle wanted his salary to be under $3 million. Reports the Seahawks had inquired about San Francisco's Takeo Spikes in free agency led Tatupu to feel that perhaps keeping him was more a fallback plan than a priority. The result was that he asked for — and was granted — his release.
"We really feel comfortable with saying that it was a mutual agreement with how to deal with it," Carroll said.
Tatupu did not respond to interview requests.
With Tatupu's departure, David Hawthorne will move from weakside linebacker to the middle, where he played when Tatupu missed the final 10 games of the 2009 season because of a torn pectoral muscle. Hill is projected as the starting weakside linebacker.
On Sunday, Hawthorne said he was grateful for how Tatupu helped prepare him for the role.
"We all got to say our goodbyes to him today and just tell him what he meant to us," Hawthorne said. "He meant a lot, for me especially, because I came in undrafted and he kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot."
The Seahawks drafted Tatupu in the second round in 2005, and they were criticized for choosing him that high. He wasn't that tall and wasn't all that fast, and all he did was make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.
Seattle had started a different middle linebacker in each of the six seasons before he arrived. Tatupu started 55 consecutive games to begin his NFL career.
But injuries took their toll the past three seasons. In 2008, Tatupu played through a broken thumb he suffered in the first game, and he also had a knee injury that required him to have the joint drained. In 2009, he first suffered a hamstring injury, then tore his pectoral muscle in Week 6, ending his season. He had knee surgery at the end of last season.
Tatupu played for Carroll in college at USC, and he was a key leader on the 2004 Trojans squad that won the national title (it later vacated its BCS title but remains recognized as champion by The Associated Press)..
"I love Lofa," Carroll said. "I have in following him and supporting and coaching him and watching him grow up. Because this was a decision we agreed to, I support him."
So yet another Seahawks mainstay is moving on, Tatupu joining Matt Hasselbeck as a former Seahawks captain who will be playing elsewhere in 2011.
"It's not like it'll be hard for him to find a job," Hill said. "He has his ties here, he had a great career here, and I guess it's just time to move on."
• Ryan Sims, a defensive end from Tampa Bay, agreed to sign with Seattle. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder played in just six games for the Bucs last season when he was limited by a knee injury.
• Chris Spencer, Seattle's center the past five years, will join Chicago as a free agent.