Bruce Irvin's NFL career: Five countries, Super Bowl ejection, more

RENTON, Wash. -- Bruce Irvin's winding NFL career has taken him to five teams over 11 seasons. A first-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, he's now in his third stint with the team in addition to his time with the Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears.

The 35-year-old outside linebacker is well-traveled in more ways than one.

Irvin has played in Toronto and twice in London and Mexico City. He's about to add another stamp to his NFL passport with the Seahawks heading to Munich to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL's first ever game in Germany. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that will make Irvin the league's first player to have played a game in five different countries.

The feat hadn't occurred to Irvin until a pair of fans pointed it out on Twitter on Tuesday

"It means I'm old," a smiling Irvin said Wednesday, as the Seahawks were about to practice for the final time at team headquarters before making the 10-hour flight to Munich. "It means I've been around the block."

Irvin was a rookie with the Seahawks in 2012 when they hammered the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. Both of his trips to Mexico City were with the Raiders, who beat the Houston Texans there in 2016 then lost to the New England Patriots the next year. Irvin and the Raiders lost to the Seahawks in London in 2018. He was back in the UK in 2019 with the Panthers, who beat the Bucs.

Toronto's proximity to Buffalo meant the majority of the nearly 41,000 fans at the Rogers Centre were pro-Bills. But Irvin recalls more neutral crowds at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium (which drew over 76,000 fans for both games) and in the two London venues: Wembley Stadium (nearly 85,000) and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (nearly 61,000).

"I just remember they cheer for everybody," Irvin said. "They got on everybody's jerseys and they're just cheering for touchdowns and big plays."

The NFL relocated a 2018 Monday night game that was set to be played at Azteca Stadium because of concerns about the grass, but Irvin remembers the field there being in better shape than it was at Wembley Stadium. The Mexico City trips had their own concerns, though.

"We had to watch out for the cartel and stuff," Irvin said. "We couldn't even leave the hotel in Mexico City. We had to bring our own water and everything."

Before returning to the Seahawks in October, Irvin was training back home in Atlanta and considered calling it a career. He told his wife that he'd wait three more weeks for another opportunity to play before retiring. Then came a call from the Seahawks, who brought him in for a workout, signed him to their practice squad and have since promoted him full-time to their active roster.

Irvin has played 24, 47 and 37 snaps in three games, starting the past two, with three tackles for loss in that span. He recorded a sack in Seattle's win over the Arizona Cardinals last week, his first since late in the 2019 season.

"It's really surprising that he fits right in," coach Pete Carroll said last week. "He fit right in football-wise, athletically and his attitude is great. He's really grateful to have another chance here. It kind of feels like home to him. It's been really fun to see him get back into it and he's done really well."

Ever the open book, Irvin credits his newfound sobriety for helping him play and produce at his age, saying his body is recovering better after games than it used to after giving up alcohol about four months ago.

Which means no postgame drink on the flight home from Munich to celebrate a win and/or his travel milestone.

Irvin tweeted about the unique occurrence Tuesday -- and poked fun at the scuffle that got him ejected in the closing seconds of the Seahawks' loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX.

Irvin's light-hearted nature is partly rooted in appreciation for how much he's turned his life around from his rough upbringing.

"Me making it to the NFL was a big question," Irvin said, "so let alone to play in five different countries, I think that's a great accomplishment."