RENTON, Wash. -- O'Brien Schofield is more than just another waiver-wire pickup for the Seattle Seahawks. The outside linebacker is going to factor for the team this season. That much seems obvious from watching the team practice.
The Seahawks tried Schofield in the "Leo" role Wednesday after previously using him at 'SAM' linebacker and as a nickel lineman. The opportunity to compete for playing time at multiple positions has invigorated Schofield since his salary-related release from the Arizona Cardinals late last month. He's a happy man.
"I've got all these amazing teammates who are just very encouraging, a great coaching staff that has pushed me to be a great player and the expectation level here is phenomenal," Schofield said after practice.
The Cardinals sought to upgrade their pass rush when they signed veteran John Abraham, who has consistently produced double-digit sack totals. They released Schofield in part because of a $1.3 million salary, lingering injury concerns and the likelihood that Schofield might sign elsewhere after the 2013 season, anyway.
Both teams could come out ahead.
Early reports suggest Abraham has become a team leader by example while upgrading the pass rush as anticipated. Seattle wasn't looking for defensive leadership. The team wanted another young rotation player with the versatility to contribute in multiple ways.
Schofield, 26, gets to join a team coming off an 11-win season and a playoff appearance after suffering through the Cardinals' 1-11 finish to the 2012 season.
"With the mindset of the players, to have a flat day out here is rare because everything is so competitive and you don’t want to look bad and be on that highlight tape once we get in for meetings," Schofield said.
Schofield mostly played left outside linebacker with the Cardinals. He moved around in some of the sub packages, depending on the opponent. The team typically used a three-man rotation at outside linebacker.
Seattle has put greater emphasis on developing Schofield, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril for use at multiple positions. It's not yet clear how each will handle the various responsibilities, but the team is going to need options. A suspension will cost Irvin the first four games of the season. Defensive end Chris Clemons, the team's prototypical Leo defensive end, has not yet returned from knee surgery and it's not clear when he will.
"To have four or five guys that can play multiple positions, for me to be able to play three positions, it’s great," Schofield said.
The SAM linebacker plays on the tight end side and drops into coverage more regularly in playing the run and blitzing on occasion. The Leo defensive end must be a top pass-rusher. Both are on the field across multiple downs and situations, so playing the run is important as well.
"And then as defensive end in the nickel, you are just playing your basic D-end: getting off the ball, setting the edge and if anything comes to you, spilling it to the guys behind you," Schofield explained.
Three roles equate to three ways to get on the field. That means Schofield, a fourth-round draft choice in 2010, could still factor even when Irvin and Clemons are available. The coaching staff has been working with Schofield to improve his quickness in getting off the ball at the snap. That is his No. 1 focus in camp. It helps, too, that the broken leg Schofield suffered against Green Bay last season is less of an issue.
"I'm just starting to feel good," Schofield said. "I've been mentally battling through the frustrations of feeling at one point like I wasn't as explosive, and I was telling myself that and that is how I was practicing. But I looked at film and I was like, 'I'm still that same guy.' "