Seahawks Transformation Easily Worth A Couple Of Practices
News broke today that the Seahawks violated new rules in the NFL collective bargaining agreement regarding player contact during organized team activities (OTAs), and will have to forfeit two upcoming practices as a result. My first concern was less about the loss of practice, and more that there was a subtle implication that a player reported the excessive contact to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). A player on the team was so concerned about this perception that he reached out to me to make sure people knew the NFLPA review happened automatically as a result of player injuries (Golden Tate and Allen Bradford both broke hands) and a publicized report of a fight between Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas, not due to a player complaining. Step back, and break all that down.
The Seahawks were penalized for practicing too hard, and for too much contact. Nobody on the team reported this to the NFLPA. The thought of a player breaching team trust and reporting a mild violation was so troubling to players that they took the time to make sure fans knew this did not come from them. Some will take this as an opportunity to poke at Pete Carroll for running another program that violates the rules. Others may wring their hands about the disadvantage the Seahawks face due to the lost practice time. Two practices is a small price to pay for the Seahawks continuing to reshape their brand.
People have historically described the Seahawks as “soft,” “small,” or a “finesse” team. Fans around the country will read tomorrow about one team in the NFL that violated rules by allowing too much contact in practice. That’s something you would expect to read about the Patriots, the Steelers, the Bears. Those organizations would puff out their chests while saying their mea culpas. Seattle victories are more often attributed to luck than to toughness. I can almost guarantee you Jim Harbaugh was pissed when he saw the story break. Don’t be surprised if you see a story next week that the 49ers have been docked three practices due to violating contact rules, just so Harbaugh can claim toughness superiority.
Carroll is a player’s coach, right? He’s easy on players, right? He is building anything but a soft team. Both the defense and the offense will hit opponents in the mouth, and then do it again. The fact that they struggle to hold back in practice is a great sign. These guys are torqued, and it’s June. Note that none of the players involved had to apologize to the team, or were cited for off-field problems. This was about intensity, not about selfishness.
That said, it would not have been surprising the hear that a player on the team felt compelled to report violations to the NFLPA. They have affiliations to the league, to themselves, to the union and to the team. They all chose the team. Nobody is advocating team cover-ups here. Whistle blowers play a critical role in any open society. The coaches were not putting anyone at risk. The players weren’t doing anything they don’t do in other practices that have different CBA rules. It’s not like they were doing Mike Singletary’s infamous nutcracker drills. It was more akin to that one extra shove during an in-game scuffle that results in a 15-yard penalty. They need to know better, but you love to see the fight in them. This was about good players trying to become great.
All this means the players are banned from the Seahawks facilities for the next few days. Who knows what they will do with more time on their hands. Maybe they will treat it like a vacation. Maybe they’ll explore rainy Seattle. More likely, they will be finding other fields they can practice on without coaches, pouring over their playbooks, and studying film. That’s who this team is becoming. It’s a transformation fans can be proud of.