FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – When Bruce Irvin agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday after being released by the Oakland Raiders at the start of the week and clearing waivers, he was not only reuniting with his former coach Dan Quinn, but he was fulfilling a lifelong dream.
"Yesterday it hit me a little bit," Irvin said during his introductory press conference Thursday. "I know I look scary, but I really was crying yesterday. This is a childhood dream for me, growing up watching Michael Vick, Terence Mathis, guys like that. This was always my dream, so for me to be able to come and live it out it was a surreal moment. I'm just very fortunate to be an Atlanta Falcon right now."
Irvin, 31, has been considered among the more productive pass rushers in the NFL since he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 12th-overall pick in the 2012 draft. In 2013, Quinn arrived in Seattle, where he coached Irvin for two seasons and helped the Seahawks reach two consecutive Super Bowls and earn an Lombardi Trophy.
Irvin was a part of a 2013 Seahawks defense led by Quinn that finished the season No. 1 in points allowed (231), yards allowed (4,378) and takeaways (39), which marked the first time a defense finished atop all three of those categories since the famed 1985 Bears. That season cemented the "Legion of Boom" era for Seattle, but Irvin is reuniting with Quinn to be a part of something new in Atlanta.
"Me and DQ can't sit and dwell on what we did in Seattle and going to those Super Bowls and stuff like that," Irvin said. "It's about right now. I feel like they needed me and I wanted to be here so I did what I had to do and we made it happen."
The Falcons defense dealt with some major losses due to injuries to several key players early this season, but they've rebounded in recent weeks and have begun to find their stride. Better still, Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones began practicing for the first time on Wednesday since going on injured reserve after Week 1, and he could potentially return to the lineup for the Falcons' Week 11 game against the Cowboys.
But Atlanta (4-4) didn't hesitate to add Irvin to bolster their pass rush. The seventh-year defender has recorded 40 sacks and 15 forced fumbles during his career, and he joins a Falcons defense that has just 17 sacks this season, tied for 27th among all NFL teams.
"Sometimes the things have to align just right for that to happen," Quinn said of the signing. "We thought maybe we'd have a chance when he left Seattle a few years ago to join, and he ended up going to Oakland during that time. But sometimes it just has a way to work itself out, so if it was the right fit for him it was going to be the right fit for us. I think for both sides, for our team and for him, it was the right fit at the right time and it just aligned at the right time for us."
The Falcons have talent along the defensive line, and it will be interesting to see how they plug Irvin into the mix. Quinn has said Irvin will start out with Atlanta at defensive end, and he will be a part of the team's nickel packages. With Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley already in place on the edge, might Quinn and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel get creative and bump one of them inside?
If that turns out to be the case, Atlanta could roll out a pass-rush group that includes Beasley, McKinley, Irvin and Grady Jarrett. That's a lot of firepower.
Irvin is coming in to help a team that's won its last three games keep that momentum rolling. He knows what it takes to reach the Super Bowl and win it, and he wants to help the Falcons in any way he can.
"I've got a lot of knowledge," Irvin said. "I've been in two Super Bowls, won one and lost one, so I know the blueprint of it … I think these guys are doing a great job of getting in their zone and getting on a roll at the right time of the year.
"I'm just happy to be where I'm at and being a part of something great, and I'm looking forward to contributing."
But, football aside, Irvin is where he wants to be. A native of Georgia, Irvin wants to achieve success in his home town. A lot of different factors can go into a free agent's decision to sign somewhere, but with Irvin the allure of going home and reuniting with his former coach seemed like a no-brainer.
And other NFL teams knew it.
"When I talked to my agent he said, 'You know every team thinks you're going to Atlanta,'" Irvin said. "And I said under my breath, 'They're right.'"