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December 9, 2008

Tapp back in the starting lineup and playing well in Seattle

By: Jimmy Robertson

“That’s just the way I am. I knew I had to do something to validate them inserting me back in the starting lineup. So you push even harder. That’s what I did.” – Darryl Tapp on earning his way back into the Seattle starting lineup. (Photo Courtesy of Seattle Seahawks)

Darryl Tapp has quickly learned about the business that is the NFL.

Coming off a season in which he started 16 games and played reasonably well, recording seven sacks and an interception, the former Tech defensive end and current Seattle Seahawk found himself in a reserve role at the start of this season, as the Seahawks handed the starting job to rookie Lawrence Jackson, a first-round pick from Southern Cal.

But that didn’t cause any worries for one of the more popular Hokies to play under Frank Beamer. In typical Tapp fashion, he never complained and simply kept working.

Tapp got his first start of the season in week seven – and he’s started ever since.

“That’s just the way I am,” Tapp said. “I knew I had to do something to validate them inserting me back in the starting lineup. So you push even harder. That’s what I did.

“They [the Seahawks coaching staff] wanted to try a rookie. At this level, you quickly learn that it’s a business. Things hadn’t been going great for us as a team, so they inserted me back in the lineup. I’m just trying to make the most of it.”

Tapp is playing in his third season with Seattle after the team took him in the second round of the 2006 draft. During his rookie year, he played in all 16 games, recording 33 tackles (22 solo) and three sacks. He also intercepted a pass.

Last season appeared to be his breakout campaign. He started all 16 games, recording 49 tackles (41 solo) and seven sacks. And again, he intercepted a pass.

But the Seahawks’ personnel people drafted Jackson in the first round and are paying him big money. They wanted a quick return on their investment, so they started Jackson even though Tapp played very well last season, and Tapp then quickly realized he was only as good as his last game.

“It’s been a growing experience,” he said. “I had my job stripped from me. But I’ve earned it back.

“The competition in this league is sky high. It’s the best of the best. It’s fun, but it’s also challenging. You can’t relax.”

Tapp, a former two-time All-ACC selection, enjoyed the Seahawks’ playoff run a year ago. Seattle made it to the NFC divisional game, where it lost to the Chicago Bears 27-24. He hoped to experience that again, but the Seahawks have struggled to a 2-11 mark so far this season.

“We’ve had so many injuries to our wide receivers,” he said. “I think all of them have been hurt at some point, and then, that migrated over to the rest of the team. That’s played a part in it [the Seahawks’ struggles].

“Sometimes when that happens, guys want to do more than they need to do. They try to force things instead of just doing their job. That’s happened a lot to us, too. It’s been tough for us this year.”

Tapp signed a four-year contract shortly after he got drafted. That means he has one more season remaining in Seattle after this one before his contract expires. He comes from a tight-knit family – he and his two older brothers are very close – and he would love to see more of them, but they live in the Tidewater area.

Still, that’s not to mean that he wants to go anywhere.

“I love it here,” he said of Seattle. “The city is nice and the scenery is nice. The only negative is that it’s so far away from home. But I usually have at least one member of my family go to every game.

“I like the organization here, too. They really care about their players. Coach [Mike] Holmgren is great and Jim Mora [Seattle’s defensive backs coach and coach-in-waiting] is great. He brings a lot of intensity. Everything is going good.

“We even have a Hokie Club out here. I haven’t been able to get up with them yet, but I know we have one.”

As expected, Tapp keeps up with some of his former teammates and with what’s happening at Tech. He and James Anderson, a former high school teammate now with the Carolina Panthers, remain close.

“I talk a lot with those guys before and after games,” Tapp said. “I’ve run into DeAngelo [Hall], [Aaron] Rouse, [Chris] Ellis, and we play Josh Morgan and those guys twice.

“I’d love to get back to Tech more often and see some of the folks there. But there’s not really an offseason. You get a month or two off, maybe, and then you have to be back here for OTA’s [organized team activities]. Maybe since we’re not going to be in the playoffs, I can get back there.”

Hopefully, he can get back to Blacksburg. He’d certainly be welcomed.

But as he’s learned, the NFL is a business – and it takes top priority.

HOKIES IN THE PROS (29 as of Dec. 8th)

Arizona Cardinals

25 Eric Green – The former Tech cornerback has started nine games for the Cardinals thus far this season, playing in 11 and missing one game because of an injured knee. He has 30 tackles (25 solo) and an interception, the second of his career.

Baltimore Ravens

Justin Harper – Harper, a seventh-round pick of the Ravens, stuck with Baltimore throughout training camp, but was dropped during the last series of cuts before opening day. Still, he signed with the Ravens’ practice squad and looks as though he will spend the rest of the season there.

Buffalo Bills

93 Chris Ellis – Ellis, whom the Bills took in the third round of April’s NFL Draft, went into this season as a back-up at the end spots. He was not activated for the first five games, but the Bills activated him for the sixth game (he did not play), and for the season, he has played in six games. He has three tackles – all solo.

Carolina Panthers

50 James Anderson – Anderson serves as a back-up at the weakside linebacker spot for the Panthers, but hasn’t played a lot this season. He was not activated for the first six games this season, and has only played in four games so far. He has one solo tackle on the season.

87 Jeff King – King serves as the starter at tight end for the Panthers and has started 11 of 12 games this season. He has 19 catches for 169 yards, an average of 8.9 yards per catch, and has one touchdown. He caught his first touchdown reception of the season in the Panthers’ 31-22 win over the Lions.

Chicago Bears

27 Kevin Jones – Jones signed with the Bears in the offseason and has played in eight games as a back-up thus far (he wasn’t activated for two games). He has rushed for 109 yards on 34 carries and caught two passes for five yards.

Cincinnati Bengals

17 Shayne Graham – Graham, a former Tech kicker, has started 11 games with the Bengals this season, missing two games because of a groin injury. He has made 16 of his 18 field-goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards, and all of his 10 extra-point attempts.

Cleveland Browns

27 Nick Sorensen – Sorensen, now in his eighth NFL season, participates mostly on special teams for the Browns, while also serving as a back-up at the safety spots. He has played in all 13 games thus far, and has 21 tackles (17 solo) and a half of a sack.

Denver Broncos

60 John Engelberger – Engelberger, a former defensive lineman at Tech, started the first six games this season at defensive end before missing a game with an injured knee. Now a reserve, he has played in 11 of 12 games and has 25 tackles (19 solo) and a sack on the season.

75 Carlton Powell – The Broncos took the former Tech defensive tackle in the fifth round of this past April’s NFL Draft, but he won’t be playing this season. Powell tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout and will miss the entire season.

19 Eddie Royal – Royal started the first five games for Denver before missing the sixth game with an injured ankle. He returned to the starting lineup for the next game and has started every game since then. He has caught 69 passes for 799 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also returned 12 punts for an average of 11.8 yards per return and rushed 10 times for 38 yards. And he’s returned 20 kickoffs for an average of 26.3 yards per return, including a long of 95 yards.

Green Bay Packers

37 Aaron Rouse – Rouse, a third-round pick in 2007, has started four games and played in 11 of the Packers’ 13 games this season, missing a recent game with an ankle injury. He has 44 tackles (32 solo) and two interceptions so far this season, one of which he returned 99 yards for a touchdown.

Houston Texans

11 André Davis – Davis, now in his seventh NFL season, serves as the third receiver for the Texans and has played in nine of the Texans’ 13 games this season – he missed four games because of an injured finger. He has caught 10 passes for 155 yards and returned 32 kickoffs for 719 yards, an average of 22.5 yards per return.

76 Duane Brown – Brown went to the Texans in the first round of this past April’s NFL Draft and has started every game at left tackle for the team. He continues to fair pretty well – he’s only committed four penalties thus far.

52 Xavier Adibi – The Texans drafted the former Tech linebacker in April, and after a slow start to the season, he has worked his way into the starting lineup, having started four games thus far and played in six overall. He has 33 tackles (26 solo) on the year – 15 of those coming in a game against Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars

20 Pierson Prioleau – Prioleau signed with the Jaguars in the offseason to be a back-up at both safety spots and to play on special teams. He has played in every game thus far for the Jaguars, starting one of those, and has 19 tackles (18 solo) on the season.

75 Jonathan Lewis – The former Tech defensive tackle landed with the Jaguars in mid-August and expected to add depth to their line. But Lewis suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale against Washington and will miss the 2008 season.

Kansas City Chiefs

24 Brandon Flowers – Flowers, a rookie, started the first five games for Kansas City and 10 of the 11 he’s played. The 2008 second-round pick came up big in the Chiefs’ loss to the Jets when he picked off two Brett Favre passes and returned one 91 yards for a touchdown. He has 48 tackles (42 solo) on the season and the two interceptions.

Miami Dolphins

18 Ernest Wilford – Wilford, Tech’s all-time leading receiver, signed a big deal with the Dolphins in the offseason, but has gotten off to a slow start. He has caught just three passes for 25 yards and has played in just five of Miami’s games.

76 Brandon Frye – Frye started the season with the Houston Texans, but has landed with the Miami Dolphins, who signed him in early November. The former Tech offensive tackle has played in four games with the Dolphins – the first game action of his young NFL career.

New Orleans Saints

68 Matt Lehr – Lehr’s contract was terminated in early September, but the Saints re-signed him shortly thereafter. The former Tech offensive lineman and nine-year veteran has started three games and played in 10 so far this season.

New York Jets

17 David Clowney – Clowney, now in his second season, was activated for the first time this season when the Jets activated him for their game against Kansas City. He did not play in that game, and he hasn’t been activated for any other game since that one.

Oakland Raiders

64 Jake Grove – The former Tech center is now playing in his fifth season with Oakland and started the first nine games of the season. But he suffered an injured calf and hasn’t been able to play since. A year ago, he played in just seven games, missing the majority of the season because of a knee injury.

San Francisco 49ers

84 Josh Morgan – Morgan, a 2008 sixth-round pick, had a breakout game against the Giants when he caught five passes for 86 yards, including a 30-yarder that went for a touchdown – his first in the NFL. That performance earned him the starting nod against Seattle in the 49ers’ next game. But Morgan has played in just one game since then because of an injured groin. He has caught 15 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and he also plays on special teams. He has four tackles on special teams, including three solo ones.

Seattle Seahawks

55 Darryl Tapp – After starting all of last season, the former Tech defensive end finally broke into the starting lineup this season after playing as a reserve in the first five games. He has started every game since (eight total) and has 44 tackles (36 solo) and three sacks so far this season.

St. Louis Rams

69 Anthony Davis – The former Tech offensive tackle started the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in four games. But the Bucs released him on Oct. 25th. He went unemployed for nearly a month until the Rams signed him on Nov. 18th. He hasn’t been activated for any of the Rams’ games yet.

Tennessee Titans

22 Vincent Fuller – The former Tech defensive back continues to flourish in Tennessee for the one-loss Titans, having seen action in every game (one start). He has 41 tackles, including 31 solo stops, and he has recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.

Jason Murphy – Murphy, a former Tech guard, ended up being cut by the Titans in late August. But the Titans signed him to their practice squad a couple of days later and he’ll probably spend the rest of the season there.

Washington Redskins

23 DeAngelo Hall – Hall was abruptly released by the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 5th, but signed a one-year, $429,000 deal with the Washington Redskins just two days later. He doesn’t start, but has played in every game since signing with the Redskins and made an impact, picking off two passes. He now has five interceptions for the season to go along with 57 tackles (48 solo).