If Lofa Tatupu plays with added vigor at training camp for the Atlanta Falcons, it makes sense. After all, it wasn't so long ago he believed his career was over.
Tatupu was a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Seahawks, but when the team released him last year, the phone didn't ring. Tatupu stopped working out eventually, and began thinking about sending in his retirement papers to the NFL.
A phone call from the Atlanta Falcons changed all that. Tatupu signed a two-year, $3.6 million deal with the Falcons in March, and he'll have a legitimate shot at a starting middle linebacker role in training camp.
"I'm excited about the whole process and just being back playing ball again," Tatupu, 29, told The Boston Globe in Sunday's edition. "You've got to knock a little rust off, but for the most part it's second nature, especially as a middle linebacker. You're supposed to know what everybody is doing. You're supposed to be the field general. From that standpoint, I really wasn't taken aback by it. I just come in and do what I do."
The offseason departure of Curtis Lofton to the New Orleans Saints left a void in the Falcons' linebacker corps. If Tatupu can shake off the rust and perform at a level similar to his best years in Seattle, don't be surprised if he beats out Akeem Dent, the 2011 third-round pick who currently stands as his main competition.
Tatupu has extra incentive to win the position battle, too, as he could receive a $1.25 million bonus based on '12 playing time, a source with knowledge of Tatupu's deal told our Brian McIntyre on Sunday.
Tatupu's body is just as big a challenger as Dent. The end of his Seattle run was marked by a succession of injuries, including concussion issues, and he missed time in OTAs with a strained hamstring. Tatupu's comeback story won't have a happy ending if he can't stay on the field.