The 2019 season wasn't even over yet when Bruce Irvin began imagining a return to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks had earned a 30-24 victory on the road over Irvin's Carolina Panthers in early December last year and following the game Irvin wished he was joining his former team for their flight back home to Seattle.
"After we played them I was like, ‘Damn, I wish I was with those guys,'" Irvin said.
Irvin was a part of one of Seattle's most successful draft classes in team history. He was drafted 15th overall by the Seahawks in the 2012 NFL Draft. Seattle would take Bobby Wagner in the second round and Russell Wilson in the third round as the team soon became Super Bowl contenders around their young core. Irvin spent his first four seasons with the Seahawks before following defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to the Oakland Raiders.
After Seattle's win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the postseason, Irvin said he texted Wagner with a similar message.
"Man I wish I was on that plane with y’all," he said.
"I can't complain about anywhere I've been but nothing has been like Seattle. ... They run it right up there and I'm just happy to be back."
With Norton back in Seattle under head coach Pete Carroll, Irvin longed for a chance to return to the team that he started his career with. He agreed to a deal with the Seahawks on a one-year deal on the first day of full free agency back in March.
"Very refreshing knowing that I'm going to a situation that I know that they run it very professional, they take good care of their players," Irvin said. "You're going to always work. You're always going to compete. You're always going to be competitive in every game you step in. For me at this stage of my career is going to the best situation and I felt like going back home - with Seattle I consider it my football home at least - that was the best thing that could happen to me, especially in year nine. I couldn't ask for a better situation."
Irvin's 8.5 sacks last year with the Panthers was double that of any Seahawks' pass rusher last season. Rasheem Green led Seattle with four sacks last year as only the Miami Dolphins produced fewer sacks than the Seahawks in 2019. Irvin and fellow returning Seahawks defensive end Benson Mayowa are part of the revamped effort to improve the pass rush for the 2020 season.
Irvin said he's going to jump right back into the same role he previously had with Seattle. He anticipates being the team's strong-side linebacker on early downs before moving to a pass rushing role in passing situations. Irvin said he's a better player now that he was when he left the Seahawks after the 2015 season.
“I think I’m a more polished player now," Irvin said. "I think I’m a better player now than I was during my first four years in Seattle. The game is slower. I know how to set up certain moves. I know how to study film now. It’s a lot of things. I know how to take care of my body better. It’s things that come with maturity and age.”
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 10: Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates Kam Chancellor #31 interception and scoring a 90 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter thrown by Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoff game at CenturyLink Field on January 10, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)