By Brady Henderson
Seattle doesn’t play division-rival Arizona for six weeks – not that Seahawks linebacker O’Brien Schofield is counting or anything.
While Schofield says he’s focused on Sunday’s regular-season opener against Carolina – a game in which injuries could force him into significant role – the former Cardinal still has some sour feelings over the way he was unceremoniously released by his old team in July.
“I’m fired up for the rest of my career,” Schofield said Thursday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Wyman, Mike and Moore”.
O’Brien Schofield, a fourth-round pick by Arizona in 2010, spent three seasons with the Cardinals before he was released in July and claimed off waivers by Seattle. (AP)
Schofield’s demise in Arizona can be traced back to mid-way through last year. He had four sacks through nine games, but what was shaping up to be a breakout season ended when he sustained an ankle injury that required surgery. When the Cardinals cleaned house after a 5-11 finish, hiring Bruce Arians as their new head coach and promoting Steve Keim to general manager, Schofield could begin to see the writing on the wall.
“They fired the whole coaching staff, the GM, brought in new guys, they brought their own guys in and it kinda left a bad taste in my mouth from the get-go because I could kinda tell they didn’t want me there from the jump, and I had to put up with a lot of BS during OTAs,” he said without going into detail.
“It used to drive me crazy. I haven’t been too open about this, but I’m feeling better about it. It used to drive me crazy.”
NFL teams frequently overhaul their rosters when a new administration takes over, ditching players acquired by the previous regime in favor of their own. It’s especially true when a new coordinator is installing a new scheme, as Todd Bowles was with Arizona’s defense. In Schofield’s case in particular, his injury history and $1.3 million salary couldn’t have helped matters, either.
But it’s not so much that fact that he wasn’t in the Cardinals’ plans that irks Schofield; it was how it all went down. To hear him describe it, the way the team handled his departure was callous, even by the standards of a notoriously cold-blooded business like the NFL.
“When I came in for camp they made me come in with the rookies as a fourth-year guy. I knew something was up. I was kinda ticked off about that. I ended up having a conversation with my agent. My agent said he’ll talk to the player personnel. They said, ‘Oh, everything’s fine, we’ve got big plans for O’Brien and whatever he’s reading, it’s not true,’ ” Schofield recalled.
“So the next day, first day of camp, we go up for the conditioning test. The media’s out there, my team’s out there stretching. I go out to stretch and they pull me aside and basically cut me on the field. Didn’t talk to anybody – no GM, no coach, no nothing. When I was walking I saw my coach; he just kinda moved right out the way, he didn’t say nothing to me. So that made me mad.”
Arizona’s trash was Seattle’s treasure. The Seahawks jumped at the chance to claim Schofield, a player they had a close eye on during the 2010 draft and someone with starting experience as well as the versatility to play both strongside linebacker and the pass-rushing defensive end position know as Leo in Seattle’s defense.
Schofield said he expects to mainly play Leo on Sunday, and he would even start should Cliff Avril be unavailable due to a hamstring injury. It will be the first regular-season game since college in which Schofield plays from a three-point stance, and he’ll be trying to stop a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in Cam Newton. He has enough on his plate to be looking ahead to that Week 7 meeting with his old team.
“I’m trying not to even think about that right now. I’m just focusing on the games ahead,” he said. “When that game comes, believe me …”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.