Tampa, Fla. – Consider them contributors, but also along for the ride. Two former Seattle Seahawks are enjoying the Arizona Cardinals’ first appearance in the Super Bowl.
One said his time with the Seahawks helped him believe he could be a receiver in the NFL, while the other chose a hasty departure from Seattle.
Singing the praises of Seattle was Arizona wide receiver Jerheme Urban, who has developed into a key reserve and special teams player for the Cardinals.
Urban suffered through three mostly injury-plagued seasons in Seattle, finishing 2005 on the injured reserve list after several players protested when he was waived midseason after a foot injury. Urban was released the following summer.
He said Seattle’s move to keep him for the rest of the 2005 season showed there is still a sense of team, even in the NFL.
“Without Coach (Mike) Holmgren giving me a shot, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Urban said. “I had a great receiver coach in Nolan Cromwell who taught me a ton of stuff. Matt Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer took me under their wing my first couple years and really taught me what NFL quarterbacks are looking for in receivers and just really helped me mature, on the football field and off.”
Urban said that, coming to the NFL from Division III Trinity University, he had to learn the speed of the game while in Seattle, which helped him ultimately earn a job with the Cardinals.
In his sixth year in the league, and second with the Cardinals, Urban finished with a career-high 34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, including a 16-yard touchdown catch against his former team in the final game of the regular season. He’s become a steady player the Cardinals can depend on in a pinch.
“I think I give us a reliable, smart option in the slot for Kurt (Warner),” Urban said about his role with Arizona. “I’ve proven to the coaches that if need be, I can move outside if we had an injury. And then I’ve just been grateful for the chance to play special teams here.”
As grateful as Urban is for his opportunity, ex-Seahawk Chike Okeafor is another matter.
Okeafor came to the Seahawks as a free agent from NFC West Division rival San Francisco in 2003. He led Seattle in sacks the next two seasons, and his unconventional training, based on the study of martial arts techniques, along with his dabbling in alternative medicine, created a minor stir in the locker room.
Okeafor bolted the summer of 2005 to Arizona, accepting a five-year, $25 million deal with the Cardinals, including a $5 million bonus. He accepted the deal with the Cardinals, perennial cellar dwellers at the time, even though Seattle offered more money.
“They weren’t really talking about much respect,” Okeafor said about his time in Seattle. “So I signed for the minimum that I could so I could be on my way after I proved myself.”
Four years later, Okeafor finds himself playing for a Super Bowl ring. But Okeafor said he’s not holding any grudge toward Seattle.
“I’m not a, ‘I told you so,’ and ‘this and that’ (kind of guy),” Okeafor said about his departure from Seattle. “Those things seem to work themselves out. I just play the game like a kid at recess, for the love the game.”
At 32, Okeafor still can turn the corner and be effective rushing the passer.
He finished with 60 tackles and 4.5 sacks for Arizona during the regular season.
In his 10th NFL season, Okeafor said his focus on being efficient and staying healthy has helped prolong his career.
“It’s a long grind, mentally and physically,’ Okeafor said. “In the fourth quarter, that’s when you really break lose. That’s when the average guy gets tired. And that’s when the game is usually won.”