Kelly Jennings can admit it now.
The Seahawks cornerback lost his confidence a couple of years ago, which is not good if you’re an NFL defensive back.
“I’m humbled now,” said the former University of Miami star. “This league can do that to you. I’m at a spot and in a place where I realize that this is a business and a game that I love to play.
“I’ve been given opportunities. I’ve been up and down. And now I have an opportunity again.”
The Seahawks will start Jennings in the 1:15 p.m. regular-season opener Sunday against San Francisco at Qwest Field. The Seahawks just traded two-year starter Josh Wilson, and rookie Walter Thurmond — who is returning from a knee injury — isn’t ready for a full-time workload.
Jennings has shuffled in and out of the lineup so often the past four seasons he almost bristled when it was suggested he’s making a comeback.
“Not a comeback,” he said. “I’ve heard that before. I’ve still got a lot to prove. I haven’t won anything. I didn’t win a spot. The team made the choice they made and all I can do is go be the best I can be and let the chips fall where they may.”
Jennings, who graduated early from Miami with a finance degree and earned a second bachelor’s degree in business management, talked a lot about perspective and a rocky history with the Seahawks.
Drafted 31st overall in the 2006, he was billed as a shutdown corner, but then booed and singled out by Seahawks fans as the weak link in a secondary that gave up many big plays the past several seasons.
He started 15 games in 2007 and lost his job in ’08. In the season finale against Arizona, Jennings dislocated his left shoulder and tore the labrum cartilage.
Last season, he returned perhaps sooner than he should have and started six games, but failed to distinguish himself.
“I knew that he was down a bit, but he’s one of those guys that keeps a lot of things inside,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said. “We kind of talked about it some. It comes down to just being confident, trusting in yourself and going out there and taking care of business.”
Trufant and Wilson appeared to be the starting cornerbacks during training camp and the exhibition season, which relegated Jennings to a backup role before the surprising trade last week.
“Kelly has done a wonderful job for us,” coach Pete Carroll said after dealing Wilson to the Baltimore Ravens. “He’s really a good technique player, and we’re pleased as heck to have him play.”
At 5 feet 11, Jennings has the height Carroll likes in cornerbacks, although his playmaking skills are questionable. He has just one interception and admittedly needs to improve on his ballhawking ability.
He’ll get plenty of chances this season to make plays because opposing quarterbacks will likely avoid throwing at Trufant, who played like a Pro Bowler in exhibition games.
“I know teams are probably going to challenge me more because Tru does have his swag back and he’s playing well,” Jennings said. “So that’s just a challenge to me. I’ve got to be ready. Study film and do what I got to do.”