KIRKLAND — Joe Tafoya has been through all this before.
He has made teams. Been cut. Signed elsewhere. Been cut again.
Every year, every exhibition season, every training camp, Tafoya has been one of those players on the bubble.
And while it has burst a couple of times, Tafoya has continued to find work. The defensive end has made a career out of sticking around, in large part because of his special-teams play.
The final roster cuts in the NFL are just a few days away, and once again, Tafoya is hopeful of making the Seahawks' 53-man active roster.
Tafoya, a sixth-year pro, won't be 28 until next week but is considered a well-seasoned player. He has one more game, tonight's Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders exhibition finale, to make a final case to be a Seahawk for at least another season.
"This game is probably going to be the most important game for me through my whole career," Tafoya said. "Mentally, you can't think about what's going on upstairs [in the front office] or what's going on outside of the football world I live in, because I have no control over anything like that."
Seattle vs. Oakland Raiders
Tonight: 7 p.m. @ Qwest Field
Tickets: Limited number available by calling 1-888-NFL-HAWK.
TV: Ch. 5.
Radio: KIRO (710 AM).
Notable: The Seahawks are 2-2 all-time against the Raiders in exhibition play. Seattle (1-2) has not finished an exhibition season below .500 since 2002, when the Seahawks were 1-3.
Tafoya earned a place on the team last year at this time with a standout exhibition finale in which he was credited with seven solo tackles, including one for a loss, one for no gain and a sack.
That night, against the Minnesota Vikings, Tafoya showed his versatility. He turned out to be an important contributor to the Seahawks' Super Bowl run as a substitute defensive end who was effective when needed, as well as being a key player on special teams. He had a career-high 15 special-teams tackles.
The Seahawks re-signed Tafoya in the offseason. But shoulder surgery kept him out of minicamps and half of training camp this summer.
Tafoya's first exhibition game was the Seahawks' third, Saturday in San Diego. The injury, plus the fact that the Seahawks signed Kemp Rasmussen, another defensive end who can play special teams, has made making the final roster in 2006 an even bigger challenge for Tafoya.
Still, getting back on the field was stress relief, because Tafoya can control his destiny now.
"My shoulder is sore and it's going to be sore, and I've got a couple of other things going on," Tafoya said. "But you just push all of that out of your mind because once again, I'm on the bubble, and I'm just going to be one of those players for the rest of my career."
Seattle kept eight defensive linemen, including Tafoya, on the final roster going into the 2005 regular season. Four were defensive tackles and four were ends.
The talent pool is deeper this year. Seven defensive linemen are virtual locks to make the final 53 — ends Bryce Fisher, Grant Wistrom and Darryl Tapp and tackles Rocky Bernard, Russell Davis, Chuck Darby and Marcus Tubbs. A fifth tackle, Chris Cooper, has played well enough in camp and the exhibition season to merit strong consideration and can play defensive end as well.
If the Seahawks keep Tafoya, they may have to carry nine defensive linemen. That would suit special-teams coach Bob Casullo just fine.
"He's one of our core special-teams players," Casullo said. "We have about six or seven guys that we count on to play all four special teams. He was one of the guys last year and hopefully he'll be one of the guys this year. He just brings a great special-teams savvy."
Coach Mike Holmgren said a player trying to win a roster spot can still do so in the final exhibition game. But Holmgren wouldn't discuss what positions he is scrutinizing.
"I'm not trying to be cute here, it's just that the players read everything, and they listen to everything," Holmgren said. "In fairness to the guys that are battling like crazy, I don't want them to think anything but how they're going to play in the football game. It's a very competitive situation. But as far as our depth and who we keep, they're still battling right down to the wire and I'd like to keep it like that if I could."
• C Robbie Tobeck, LT Walter Jones and RB Maurice Morris did not participate in all or part of Wednesday's 30-minute mock game walk-through. Jones won't play tonight and Tobeck and Morris are likely to be out as well.
• The Seahawks had DE Bryce Fisher at right defensive tackle in their nickel defense during practice, next to Rocky Bernard, with Julian Peterson and Grant Wistrom at ends. Fisher is normally the starter at left defensive end.
Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com