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Bruce Irvin ready to play for 12th Man and rush the passer for the Seahawks

Bruce Irvin is back with the Seahawks and couldn't be happier. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ 2012 draft class is probably the most important in franchise history.

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Cornerstones on both sides of the ball – quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner – were selected and thrust into starting roles right away, and have become two of the greatest players in the history of the Seahawks.

But they weren’t the first player the Seahawks selected in the draft. That distinction belongs to Bruce Irvin, who Seattle selected 15th overall that year and who has carved out a nice career both rushing the passer and playing as a more traditional outside linebacker.

After four years in Seattle, Irvin signed with the Oakland Raiders, and later had stops with the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers. But with the Seahawks needing to improve its lacking pass rush, the team has come to an agreement with the 32-year-old Irvin, who had 8.5 sacks in 13 games for the Panthers last week.

Irvin joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant Thursday morning and reiterated what he made clear on Twitter: he’s thrilled to be back with the team that drafted him.

“I’m always grateful for opportunities, you know, but there’s nowhere like Seattle,”  he said. “It’s just a first-class organization from the way we eat, facilities, the way we travel, where we stay at. When I was younger, I was always told ‘it’s not always greener (elsewhere) a lot of the time,’ and I found out that that was true, but nonetheless, I’m grateful for every opportunity that was given to me, but I just feel like nowhere is like Seattle.”

When in Seattle from 2012 to 2015, Irvin both rushed the quarterback and played outside linebacker. This time around, it looks like his job is to make opposing passers uncomfortable.

“That’s the plan. I had a great conversation with (head coach Pete Carroll) yesterday and that’s the plan,” Irvin said. “I’ll just do whatever they need me to do. I’ve still got a lot of great ball left in me and I’m just happy to be able to, hopefully end (my career) up in Seattle where it all started at.”

The Seahawks have played against Irvin a few times since he left the team, and in 2019, he got the better of Wilson by sacking him in Week 15 when Seattle beat the Panthers. Was it awkward?

“A little bit,” he said. “It was a bittersweet moment.”

Irvin has lined up against many of the game’s top passers, but Wilson, he said, is the hardest quarterback to bring down.

“I played him in college, I practiced against him for four years and I’ve played him twice already,” Irvin said. “He’s just got like an intuition, like a certain instinct about him. He knows when somebody’s close and he can spin out of (pressure) or do whatever. It’s just amazing that he’s going on year nine and he’s doing the exact same stuff he was doing in year two and three.”

While playing for Carroll again and getting top-tier food and travel and all that is great, there’s one thing Irvin has missed about Seattle more than anything.

“The fans, honestly. The organization is great, but there’s no organization without great fans,” he said.

Despite being out of the Pacific Northwest since 2015 and playing for three other teams, he’s always felt the love from the 12th Man.

“No matter where I went, they continued to wish well upon me and wish me success no matter where I played,” Irvin said. “That just says a lot about the fan base and how great of people that they have up in Washington. It’s a privilege and like I said, I’m just happy to be able to go back and play in front of the 12s.”

While getting Irvin is a good step towards improving one of the worst pass rush units in the NFL, all eyes are on Jadeveon Clowney, who is the top defensive end in free agency. He played for the Seahawks in 2019 and Seattle appears to be the frontrunner for him.

Irvin didn’t sugarcoat what he thinks of Clowney.

“We need him. I don’t try to get into contract situations, but he’s one of the elite players in the league,” he said. “It would be a privilege to play with him.”

Irvin played with Khalil Mack, one of the best edge rushers in football, during his time with the Raiders, so he knows a thing or two about elite play at that spot.

“I played with Khalil, who was unbelievable, and Clowney is just as unbelievable, so it would be a privilege, man,” he said. “I think we could do a lot of great things this season if they can work those things out. Hopefully they will.”

Listen to the full interview with Irvin, which includes reflecting on his scuffle with Jimmy Graham, a penalty for hitting Philip Rivers, McDonald’s and much more at this link or in the player below at the 25:58 mark.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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