RENTON, Wash. – This wasn’t exactly the kind of running Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had in mind for Russell Okung’s off-season.
But before Seattle’s starting left tackle departed for Pamplona, Spain and decided to participate in the annual Running of the Bulls, Okung felt he’d better let Carroll know of his plans.
“It didn’t go too well,” Okung said with a smile Friday, recalling the conversation with Carroll. “But the thing they knew about me is that I would be safe and really as much as I could do the right thing.”
Okung’s presence at Seattle’s practice Friday is evidence that he survived to tell the tale, even if the event is dangerous enough that a reported 15 people have been killed in the last century.
“I like hearing that he made it,” Carroll said this week. “I did ask him, ‘Did you really run with the bulls? Did you run alongside of them?’ I think he might have been running alongside the last bull, though.”
Okung, though, insisted he was right in the middle of the action while also acknowledging that the event is as chaotic as it looks from afar.
“It’s like 900 yards and man, all I know is you have a plan and it goes straight out the window,” he said. “It felt a lot like a game. It’s third-and-long and the game is on the line and you’ve really got to do your job. That’s how it felt except you are really running for your life.”
Okung, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2010, is due to make just more than $7 million this season, and putting all of that at risk might raise a few eyebrows (among those participating with Okung, however, was his agent Peter Schaffer).
The 25-year-old Okung, though, doesn’t see being a professional athlete as a reason to not take advantage of some of the same memory-of-a-lifetime adventures as anyone else his age.
“I think it’s extremely important,” Okung said. “We are young guys and we’ve got a whole life ahead of us to really enjoy the experience that life has to offer. So you know, why not? You get the opportunity you are afforded to even go out there, so it’s pretty good - you should.”
Okung said the run wasn’t really by design.
“I originally just wanted to go so Spain and I’m looking at stuff to do and all of the sudden I see this guy getting gored by a bull,” he said, breaking into a smile. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.’ ”
Not that he necessarily knew what he was getting himself into.
Okung might be used to watching tons of film of opponents during the football season, but said he had little desire to scout the bulls.
“I didn’t really want to talk myself out of it,” he said. “Just kind of went there and did it and it was great.”
Even if his efforts to save his own memories of it were foiled. He intended to wear a camera to film it, but that’s not allowed by race organizers.
He said his group was initially tossed out, so he threw the camera away and jumped over the fence and rejoined the race.
Now he’s rejoined a more familiar race, attempting to help the Seahawks make a serious run at the Super Bowl.
Okung was voted a starter in the Pro Bowl in 2012 after his third season in the league, one in which he played in all but one game after having battled a slew of nagging injuries in his first two seasons.
Okung says he doesn’t feel he proved anything in 2012, nor necessarily felt he had anything to prove after 2010 and 2011.
Like the running of the bulls, he says each season is its own adventure.
“All that’s in the past,” he said. “Even last year is in the past. I’m just looking forward to having a great camp and going into having a great season.”