Surgeries point to key issue for Lofa Tatupu

Arthroscopic surgery on both knees should help Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu regain some of the mobility he lost as the 2010 season progressed.

The procedures, announced as successful by the team Thursday, point to a broader issue: Tatupu's durability as a middle linebacker lacking the natural bulk some of his peers possess.

Tatupu earned Pro Bowl honors following his first three seasons in the NFL. He was a steal as a 2005 second-round draft choice. Injuries have sidelined him and compromised his play in recent seasons, however. Tatupu has gone from being one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL to being one of the best on his team.

This offseason and the coming season appear pivotal for him.

Can Tatupu get and stay healthy enough to regain past form? The only way it can happen, I think, is if the Seahawks build a sturdy wall in front of him -- in the form of massive defensive linemen. And then Tatupu needs better luck to avoid injuries such as the torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2009 season prematurely.

Seattle was on the right track in building its defensive line until injuries sidelined 330-pound defensive end Red Bryant and, for a time, similarly weighty nose tackle Colin Cole.

Playing inside linebacker in the NFL is a rough business. Injuries have forced the San Francisco 49ers' Patrick Willis to skip the last two Pro Bowl games even though he's built well for the position.

Tatupu is still only 28 years old. He should have several more productive season remaining, if only he's healthy enough to play at a high level.