http://articles.boston.com/2012-07-08/s ... on-effects
Lofa Tatupu back in game with Falcons
Sunday Football Notes
July 08, 2012 | Greg A. Bedard
Lofa Tatupu finally signed with the Falcons in March. Now, he is battling with 2011 third round pick Akeem Dent for the starting spot vacated by free agent Curtis Lofton.
Lofa Tatupu finally signed with the Falcons in March. Now, he is battling… (AP/File )
It seemed a bit curious.
A Pro Bowl player his first three seasons in the NFL — including an All-Pro berth in 2007 — Lofa Tatupu’s career appeared to be over at 29 when the phone didn’t ring after he was released by the Seahawks nearly a year ago.
The former King Philip star and son of late Patriots fullback Mosi Tatupu thought about hanging up the cleats, as well.
“At a certain point, I just stopped working out,’’ Tatupu said recently. ‘‘I thought it was over. I was really ready to send those [retirement] papers in.’’
Tatupu had come to a mutual agreement with the Seahawks on his release after he refused to take a paycut.
Six seasons and 84 starts at middle linebacker after being a second-round pick in 2005, Tatupu was an unrestricted free agent.
He sat out the 2011 season, which got people wondering, including Patriots fans who dreamed of another Tatupu suiting up in Foxborough (at 6 feet, Lofa is a bit small for New England's scheme).
Tatupu finally signed with the Falcons in March. Now, he is battling with 2011 third-round pick Akeem Dent for the starting spot vacated by free agent Curtis Lofton.
“I’m excited about the whole process and just being back playing ball again,’’ Tatupu said. “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.’’
Most in the NFL thought Tatupu was done when even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Tatupu’s coach at Southern Cal, decided not to keep him.
There were whispers that he was suffering from concussion effects or other injuries. It’s true that Tatupu had trouble staying healthy, which was likely a byproduct of his size. Thumb and knee injuries hampered him in 2008. The following season, Tatupu had a hamstring injury, and then a torn pectoral muscle ended his season after five games. In 2010, Tatupu started all 16 games but was slowed by injuries to both knees that required postseason surgery.
Still, Tatupu said he didn’t not catch on last season because of injuries.
“It wasn’t my choice,” said Tatupu, who received a two-year contract from the Falcons. “It wasn’t anything to do with concussions or lingering injuries. I was ready to play last season. I got released, like a lot of people did, and I just didn’t catch on with anybody.”
The Falcons probably had a little pause when Tatupu missed time in organized team activities with a pulled hamstring.
“That’s behind me, we were smart with it, now I’m ready to roll,” Tatupu said.
When training camp begins later this month, Tatupu and Dent will battle for the starting job.
It helps Tatupu a bit that both players are learning the scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
“We’ve had some growing pains going through it and learning together,” Tatupu said. “Me and Dent, I know it’s been a publicized competition, which it is, but we’ve been learning together and really helpful in each other’s growth process.”
Dent said it’s been helpful to have a veteran to learn alongside.
“We’re learning together, watching film, making corrections,” Dent said. “He’s helping me out a lot in terms of trying to understand everything. A guy like Lofa, that has been to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro player, it’s been great for me.
“I’m a competitor. I know he’s a competitor also, but at the end of the day it’s good for the Falcons to have two guys that will be ready to play at any point.”
Nolan’s scheme will morph between a 4-3 and 3-4, the latter of which is Nolan’s starting point historically. Nolan said the Falcons’ personnel is still set up for a 4-3, so that will be the predominant scheme. But Tatupu said he likes the variety.
“I just like how much it disguises things that we’re doing,” Tatupu said. “I’m looking forward to that aspect and you can play a little more free that way when you know exactly where your help is going to be and how you want to disguise things to show the offense what they think you’re running.”
At least Tatupu, after a strange year off, is back playing. It might not last long, and he has plans to follow in his father’s footsteps as a coach (Mosi coached at King Philip and Curry College).
“I’ve got to be around the game,” Lofa Tatupu said. “When all is said and done, I’m going to coach or I’m going to do something that has to do with this game, because I just love it so much.’’