After starting all 16 games for the Seahawks during 2010, Lofa Tatupu, a 29-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler did not play a down in the NFL this season.
According to a source close to the situation, a knee injury was the reason he sat out the 2011-12 season.
“It was just injury-related,” the source said. “He wasn’t 100 percent and didn’t feel he was ready to go.”
ICONFormer Pro Bowl LB Lofa Tatupu didn't play a single snap in the 2011 season.
Eyeing an NFL return in 2012, the middle linebacker spent the year rehabbing, working out and spending time with his family, which includes his infant son.
The Seahawks released Tatupu during the summer, likely viewing him as a talented yet declining player due to age and injuries.
He was due to make more than $4 million for the year, and Seattle had a younger and capable replacement, David Hawthorne.
Even if Tatupu had agreed to reduce his salary, there was no guarantee he would make the roster, and the linebacker sought his release.
Tatupu signed a contract extension in 2008 that could have kept him with the Seahawks through the 2015 season and could have paid him up to $42 million.
From 2005 to 2008, the linebacker became the first Seahawk to lead the team in tackles for four consecutive seasons. But he played just five games in 2009 because of a pectoral injury. He started all 16 games during 2010, though he finished with a career low in tackles (88) for a full season.
Several teams — reportedly including the Bears, Raiders and Redskins — showed interest in him for 2011, and some already have expressed their interest for the coming season.
If Tatupu is healthy, the Eagles would seem like a logical fit. Philadelphia’s 4-3 defense has a lot of talented defensive linemen and cornerbacks but could use an upgrade to its inexperienced LB corps.
There, of course, is that if.
Typical recovery for arthroscopic knee surgery — rather than reconstruction for a torn ligament — takes weeks or maybe a couple of months but not an entire season. Tatupu’s arthroscopy, which may have involved both knees, was reported to have taken place during last January.
Tatupu may have been a victim of the NFL lockout when players could not rehabilitate under the guidance of team trainers and doctors.
“(A full offseason) probably would’ve helped his recovery significantly,” the insider said.
Even if Tatupu is 100 percent healthy, it is very unlikely that he will rejoin the Seahawks and his former college coach, Pete Carroll.
“Anything is possible,” the source said. “But I don’t thinks so.”
Under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have overhauled an aging unit and infused it with younger talent.
Only LB Leroy Hill and CB Marcus Trufant remain from the Seahawks’ 2005 Super Bowl team.
With its former defensive and offensive leaders, Tatupu and QB Matt Hasselbeck, respectively, having moved on, it puts the effective capstone on that successful Seahawks run.
Hasselbeck resuscitated his career with the Titans. It remains to be seen whether Tatupu can do the same.
Jeff Fedotin has written for Packers.com, Pro Football Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and Rivals.com. After graduating from Northwestern University, he interned for the Buffalo Bills.