RENTON, Wash. – Aaron Curry had the tattoos inked on opposite sides of his chest, which is fitting because they embody the two poles of his personality.
“Off the field” is written just below his right shoulder, above the image of a smiling theater mask.
“On the field” is inked over an anguished mask on the left side of his body just above his heart.
This is the dichotomy of Curry’s personality. Off the field, he’s a mall-walking shopper who matches his outfits, but put turf under his feet and a helmet on his head and he becomes a 254-pound Tyrannosaurus. Off the field, he dotes on his two dogs, on it he is an XXL violence enthusiast.
“He plays the game the way you’re supposed to play,” coach Jim Mora said. “With speed, with passion.”
And five games into his NFL career, Curry has proved himself a uniquely disruptive force from his position as the strong-side linebacker.
“God made him the way he is, that’s my only explanation,” linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. “Every attribute, he’s got it. Speed, athleticism, a nose for the ball just instinctively.
“Usually when you see a guy his size and speed, they don’t have the awareness of those good football players, but he does.”
Seattle’s 12th Man can testify to that after witnessing Curry’s start to the season. Against the Rams, he was a singularly aggravating presence who had St. Louis’ offense fighting mad. He forced a fourth-quarter fumble against Chicago, which set up the Seahawks’ game-tying field goal, and last week against Jacksonville he had another sack and forced fumble that fell into the hands of Cory Redding.
“I would just say things are falling into place,” Curry said.
That means that opponents are falling down, usually pretty hard.
The Seahawks could have picked a quarterback No. 4, namely Mark Sanchez who went to the Jets. Instead, they picked someone capable of wrecking an opponent’s quarterback. Curry is the kind of player who can change Sunday’s game against Arizona with one hit on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
Curry’s two sacks are tied for second-most among all NFL rookies, his 29 solo tackles rank second, but reciting statistics does not provide full insight into a linebacker’s effectiveness.
“He’s like a bullet,” safety Deon Grant said. “And not a regular .45 bullet. He tears up everything.”
Curry received a fine each of his first three NFL games for a variety of minor infractions. No fine was larger than $7,500 and none resulted in a penalty, but it showed he has brought an edge and an aggression to the Seahawks. No one is wondering if he’s too nice to excel at the position.
“He’s not a dirty player,” Mora said. “He’s just a violent, nasty player.”
Those aren’t just attributes at Curry’s position, they’re essential traits. An NFL linebacker must be strong enough to fight off blocks from bigger linemen and quick enough to cover faster receivers. Force is the great equalizer, and linebackers are the dreadnaught-class destroyers in a fleet of defensive players.
“You have to have a different mentality to play linebacker, period,” Grant said.
Curry’s shown he has that mentality on the field. But off the field? He owns two dogs named Laila and Ali and he likes to shop. Don’t laugh. Rookie receiver Deon Butler, one of Curry’s closest friends on the team, found that out firsthand.
“One time, we went to a store, I swore he bought almost everything in there,” Butler said.
Next week, same store.
“Aaron, they haven’t even restocked from what you bought out,” Butler said. “And they don’t have anything new in.
“I don’t know, he just loves shopping.“
That’s just part of the contrast in Curry’s personality, one more example of the two poles of his personality. Off the field, he is a sharp-dressed man; on it, he is perfectly suited to play linebacker.