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Published: Friday, September 18, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

Keep your eyes on the Seahawks and 49ers linebackers

RENTON — Somewhat lost this week among all the growing concern over Leroy Hill’s groin injury is collection of talented linebackers who will be on the field when the Seahawks and 49ers play Sunday.
So you’re down about the Hill injury. You’re worried the Seahawks will be without one of their top defensive players. Rather than focus on a negative, however, turn your attention to a display of talent on the field at linebacker.
Two of the best middle linebackers in the business, Seattle’s Lofa Tatupu and San Francisco’s Patrick Willis, will be leading the defenses. Aaron Curry, who has the talent to someday be one of the game’s best, will be playing the second game of his promising NFL career, and the 49ers have their own emerging talent at outside linebacker in Parys Haralson, a fourth-year player who had a big game in San Francisco’s week one victory.
And if the conversation topic is linebackers, we can’t forget who is on the San Francisco sideline. Mike Singletary, one of the greatest linebackers in history, took over as the 49ers interim coach last season and was named the permanent head coach after the season.
“It was cool to see Mike Singletary at the combine,” said Curry, who met Singletary at the pre-draft event in Indianapolis. “It would be cool to see Mike Singletary at the grocery store. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be hard to make eye contact with him because he has that stare, but I’ll take a peek over there every now and again.”
Ah yes, that stare. Singletary became famous for his menacing eyes as a player, and his players say that look comes out from time to time.
“Sometimes he don’t have to say nothing,” said Willis, the 2007 NFL defensive rookie of the year and a two-time All-Pro. “I can be coming to the sideline, and say something’s not going right, I can look over at him, and when I see those eyes it’s like, ‘Oh shoot, we better pick it up or do something different than what we’re doing.’”
Singletary insists that stare is less effective now than it was when he played, however.
“I wish they were effective with my kids, they don’t work at home,” he said.
And while Singletary might have started his NFL head coaching career on an odd note — against the Seahawks no less — when he dropped his trousers during a halftime speech in the locker room and sent tight end Vernon Davis to the locker room before the game ended, he has by his own admission grown up since that day and the 49ers are 6-3 since that loss to Seattle.
“I’ll put it this way, that is a game that I would totally like to forget,” he said. “What I did at halftime, what I did with Vernon Davis, what I did after the game, all the other stuff. It was my first game, I learned a lot. I am very thankful that it happened, everything, because I had to grow up a lot that day.”
But more than a former linebacking great, Sunday will be about the players on the field. (Of course part of the equation hinges on the health of Tatupu’s hamstring, but let’s just assume for the time being that Tatupu’s injury is as minor as the Seahawks hope and that he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game. And if that assumption turns out to be wrong, well this column is pretty much ruined).
Willis, a first-round pick out of Mississippi, is almost a perfect physical specimen at linebacker. He’s big, fast and a playmaker.
“If I could draw that guy, it would be Pat on and off the field,” Singletary said. “He is one of the most modest guys I have ever been around. Very humble and always hungry to learn and an incredible human being. On and off the field, that’s what they should look like.”
Tatupu meanwhile, is a classic example of an overachiever. Deemed a little too small and a little to slow coming out of USC, he instead proved to be a steal of a second-round draft pick, earning Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three seasons.
“What separates Lofa is that he is so detailed and he loves the game and talks the game all the time, and when you get a guy like that playing linebacker for you, you can put a lot of weight on his shoulders, and we have,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “We think pretty highly of Lofa.”
And let’s not forget Curry. The rookie was a 254-pound mass of non-stop energy last weekend, and doesn’t plan on slowing down this week or ever. Whether he’s making a play or getting under the skin of an opposing player, Curry is must-see TV.
“I’m a calm guy, but when I step in between those lines, I’m full speed, I’m passionate, I’m competitive, I’m emotional about playing football,” said Curry, who admits to having had plenty of warnings issued by officials for his, um, enthusiastic style of play. “Yeah, that’ll always be me. That’s how I’ve always been.”
So yeah, this week started with bad news about a linebacker. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of compelling linebackers to watch on Sunday.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at www.heraldnet.com/seahawksblog
Story tags » Seahawks

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