Forgotten in Houston, Babin hunting for career turnaround with Seahawks

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Jason Babin is an avid hunter.

So avid, he runs Babin Ranch in Center, Texas. He and two associates guide hunters in tracking down whitetail deer, elk, buffalo, zebra, ram, addax, wildebeest and wild boar -- just about anything that can be tracked.

Last offseason in British Columbia, he bagged his first black bear, with a bow.

Now, Babin could have more chances to explore the Northwest.

The deposed former starter and 27th overall choice by Houston in 2004 went from having no job and no role with the Texans to becoming a pass rusher for the Seattle Seahawks, the defending three-time NFC West champions -- thanks to Saturday's trade for safety Michael Boulware.

"Seems like a great move. I love it, man." Babin, generously listed at 6-foot-3, 267 pound, said with a big smile Monday night after his first Seattle practice.

"Got a team that's got a chance at Super Bowl. Can't want anymore than that."

Babin mostly watched Monday, but he said coaches have told him to be ready to be "in the mix" at practice Wednesday and in Sunday's season opener against Tampa Bay.

Defensive coordinator John Marshall knew of Babin because he knows Texans defensive coordinator Richard Smith, who was on the same staff as Marshall in San Francisco a decade ago. Marshall said Babin will begin the season as a situational pass rusher mostly on third downs.

"In Houston, they got the new coaches in (before last season, under Gary Kubiak) ... and their idea of a defensive end was a bigger, taller guy. I am more of a smaller, speed guy," said Babin, who started only three games in each of his last two seasons -- after starting all 16 as a rookie as a miscast outside linebacker in a 3-4.

"So they knew, and I knew, I didn't fit what they wanted. I think I'm a better fit in Seattle, because that's what they want."

Babin initially told reporters "I'm a little shocked," following the trade Saturday.

But Monday he said with a laugh, "I always had my fingers crossed.

"Yeah, I was happy. My wife was happy. We're excited."

The Seahawks are excited because since last January's loss in overtime at Chicago in the NFC divisional playoffs, they have addressed their need for a better pass rush. Patrick Kearney signed for $19.5 million guaranteed from Atlanta. Speedy Darryl Tapp, the second-round pick in 2006, has apparently taken Bryce Fisher's job at defensive end.

Now comes Babin, who led Houston with five sacks in 15 games as a reserve last season. Its all part of Seattle's attempt to decrease the onus on its defensive secondary, which gave up huge plays throughout last season and will have three new starters in it Sunday.

Seattle led the NFL in sacks two seasons ago en route to the Super Bowl.

"He's got speed and he's smart," Marshall said of Babin.

He also got tagged as a scapegoat in Houston. Two games into 2005, the highest-drafted player out of Western Michigan -- Houston traded up with Tennessee to get him in '04 -- was replaced by sixth-round pick Demarcus Faggins. He hasn't been a regular starter since.

Babin knew his future with the Texans was limited when they drafted Mario Williams, a 6-7, 291-pound defensive end Babin kept alluding to Monday as Houston's prototype, first overall in 2006. Babin went back to the end position at which he thrived at Western Michigan last season, but he still shared time on passing downs with Antwan Peek.

When asked about being a target for the frustrated Texans and their fans, Babin said, "Well, you know what? That's life. Now it's time to move on."

Now, he's in another 4-3. One that wants him in it.

"Personally, it's huge," he said. "That's where I played, as a defensive end, in college. It's just natural. I put my hand on the ground and go."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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