RENTON, Wash. – The poker face dissolved into a smile about 30 minutes into the NFL draft.
Tim Ruskell had been keeping a tight lip about Seattle’s interest in linebacker Aaron Curry for a few weeks now.
He’d done nothing to extinguish the smoke signals the Seahawks were interested in taking quarterback Mark Sanchez of USC, and gone so far as canceling Curry’s visit to the team’s lakefront headquarters in the month leading up to the draft.
The Seahawks used a duck-and-feint approach to mask their interest in the linebacking heavyweight who was the most obvious fit for their roster. The bluff dissolved about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon in Seattle when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the Chiefs had picked defensive end Tyson Jackson with the third choice and the Seahawks knew Curry was theirs.
The day ended with Seattle wheeling and dealing its way out of and back into the second round, but it began with a little bit of relief and a whole lot of celebration over Curry’s selection.
“The room was very happy,” Ruskell said.
Mora then called Curry to tell him the Seahawks were choosing him with the fourth overall pick.
“To find out that I was going to be a Seattle Seahawk was one of the best things that I have ever heard,” Curry said via telephone.
Picking Curry was the easy part of what turned out to be a busy day for the Seahawks. They traded away their second-round pick – No. 37 overall – in exchange for Denver’s first-round pick in 2010 and then traded their way back into the middle of the second round, giving up their second-, third- and fourth-round picks today to choose center Max Unger of Oregon.
Unger was one of the players Seattle was considering with the 37th pick, which means the Seahawks essentially gave up a third-, fourth- and fifth-round choice to acquire Denver’s first-round choice next season.
But the biggest headline Saturday was the selection of Curry, the Seahawks’ highest draft pick since Shawn Springs was chosen No. 3 overall in 1997.
He didn’t upset any of the team’s plans. No wondering whether an offensive tackle could play his way onto the field or if wide receiver Michael Crabtree could succeed in an offense that requires more discipline and precision than the spread system in college. No questions about quarterback as there would have been if Seattle chose Sanchez.
“We wanted a guy that was going to come in right away,” Ruskell said, “be able to do something for us. Here’s a guy that’s going to come into our team and have a starting job, and play for us right away.
“That was more attractive at the time.”
Ruskell is an executive known for his knack in picking defensive stalwarts. Pro Bowlers like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber in Tampa Bay, and Lofa Tatupu here in Seattle.
And under Ruskell, the Seahawks picked a well-rounded linebacker for their defensive-minded head coach. Curry started four years at Wake Forest, and many considered him the closest thing to a safe bet in this year’s draft.
Mora had never had a one-on-one conversation with Curry. At least not until he called him Saturday afternoon to say he had a new job as a Seahawks linebacker. So how well does Seattle’s coach know the player who is the Seahawks’ highest draft pick in 12 years?
“Well enough to be convicted in saying that he’s the kind of guy that we want here,” Mora said.
Curry will fill the spot vacated by linebacker Julian Peterson. Curry is 254 pounds of fast-twitch versatility, someone who can stop the run at the point of attack and drop back into zone coverage.
“He’s the whole package for the linebacker position,” Ruskell said. “That’s why the coaches were so excited about him.”