In the grand scheme of this NFL offseason, there were worse places for Russell Okung to be last week than running through the streets of Pamplona, Spain — being chased by bulls.
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So while the Seattle Seahawks weren’t thrilled with the idea of their franchise left tackle being one slip or mistake away from getting gored, the team didn’t stand in his way.
"Well, they didn’t really like it, but they told me to be safe and they trust me to make the best and right decisions. That’s why they picked me in the first place," the 2010 sixth overall pick told FOX Sports by phone Monday while eating at a sidewalk cafe near the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. "We get caught up in the States, thinking that’s the whole world when it’s really not. There’s so much in this world, it’s amazing. There’s so much life to be lived. I figured why not?
"So I did it and I’m still here to talk about it, sitting in front of this beautiful monument."
Okung isn’t the only member of the NFL to spend his last few days before training camp dodging a different kind of big hit. New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was in Pamplona a few days before Okung to participate in the festival as well.
"Nothing gets better than the NFL, you know that. But it’s really an experience in itself," Okung said. "Your heart’s beating, your adrenaline’s going. It’s kind of like a third-and-long with the game on the line. That’s exactly what it felt like."
If so, Ryan was doing the equivalent of running toward the locker room. A video caught Ryan (slowly) climbing a fence to escape a bull that wasn’t yet in his vicinity.
"Well, you know, if you’re in a position where it’s about to hit you and you can’t move out of the way, then you’re supposed to jump on the rail," Okung said. "But the way he did it, he gingerly went up the rail in the softest way possible."
Okung let out a big laugh. He was then asked if he had just insinuated Ryan was a bit of chicken.
"Hey, you said it," he said, still chuckling. "I didn’t say it."
Truth is, Okung dodged a bull when it came his way and resisted the urge to touch it — all in the name of safety and a long NFL career.
"I know I made fun of him, but I have to applaud Rex. You can’t show courage without being afraid," Okung said. "I know being on the sideline, he sees it’s a violent sport. But you don’t want to go through life saying you didn’t live. Right now, I’m doing it."
Okung’s agent, Peter Schaffer, accompanied him on the trip, which was arranged by Schaffer’s wife, Allison. Schaffer joked his wife told him, "Have fun. Can I double the life insurance?"
Okung, who is in line for base salaries totaling more than $20 million over the next three seasons and plays a premier position for a team expected to be a perennial Super Bowl contender, isn’t done taking exhilarating vacations.
"I want to do cliff diving," he said.
Then he asked Schaffer: "And what’s that other thing, hang gliding?"
There was a pause.
"He said no hang gliding," Okung added. "But I’m gonna do it anyway."