To those who watched the recent PBS Frontline special, “League of Denial,” or read the book of the same title, or saw the documentary film “United States of Football,” or simply observed the NFL beyond Sundays, they knew. But in case fans missed, Michael Robinson Tuesday offered a reminder.
“If you think there’s loyalty in this game, that’s your fault,” he said. “It’s a business. You got to understand that.”
While many fans are justifiably excited over the Seahawks’ reversal of their most debatable roster move this fall, Robinson declined to offer a public nee-ner, nee-ner, nee-ner, nor a scold.
“I’ve had some opportunities on TV to say some stuff; that’s just not me,” he said Monday after re-signing for the rest of the season. “I’ve been in this game eight years playing in the National Football League.
“I think if you would have asked me that question five or six years ago there would have been some personal (venting) . . . when I left San Francisco (after four years with the 49ers), I was upset. I was very upset. I felt like I was done wrong. I didn’t understand the business side of things. But now, you just understand it, you move on.”
The Seahawks cut Robinson Aug. 30 because he was expensive, and he was sick. In most businesses, that would be called, at best, cold-blooded. In the NFL, where guaranteed contracts are rare as a North Dakota Super Bowl, it was business as usual. The need to win immediately is urgent in 32 front offices, and one in particular needed the best 53 players right now because it was the Super Bowl favorite.
As he explained here, Robinson in mid-August had a severe reaction to an anti-inflammation medication prescribed for him. He was hospitalized twice, and was in no shape to be part of the season opener. Plus, at $2.5 million for this season, he was the game’s most expensive fullback, which in most places is sort of like having a diamond-encrusted rotary phone.
“It’s a totally different game — teams don’t even use fullbacks,” he said. “They use a tight end and put him at fullback. I think with all the movement with quarterbacks, a lot of teams are going away from the fullback, where the fullback’s more of a straight-line power runner guy.
“There’s still some spots out there for you. Just a lot of times, they don’t make as much.”
When it comes to the Seahawks offense, it remains old-school as a blackboard. Sure, they’ve adopted the trendy read-option, but that’s merely a trickier way to get the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
By now, Seahawks fans know that coach Pete Carroll is run first, second and third. Sure enough, Lynch is second in the NFL in rushing yards (578) and attempts (114). But he’s tied for 19th in yards per carry (4.2)., and quarterback Russell Wilson has been knocked about like a cue ball. The falloff in effectiveness generally has been attributed to injuries along the offensive line, which is still missing its starting tackles.
But another part of the offense’s slow start is that the Seahawks gave up on seven years of experience in cutting Robinson, settling on zero from rookie Derrick Coleman. Nobody wants to pick on a first-year player, but Coleman’s relative health — until his injury Thursday — can’t make up for Robinson’s ability to pick up a blitz or pick out a better angle to clear for Lynch.
“He’s so smart,” said WR Doug Baldwin. “He does so much for us. It really hurt to lose him.”
Don’t think Carroll and GM John Schneider missed that fact. But at roster-cutdown time, every team gambles that they have figured out a way to cover their depth deficiencies. With Coleman and fellow rookie Spencer Ware, the Seahawks thought they had a decent patch for Robinson. And at 6-1 with a good chance to have gone 7-0, it’s hard to argue.
But upon Robinson’s exit interview and thereafter, coach and GM kept him on speed-dial. They had done him cold, but they knew it was likely temporary. In the NFL, stuff happens. The best teams have prepared Plans B through Z.
“Pete and John did a great job of communicating with me,” he said. “They were very up-front. When they were cutting me, we were in there talking and they basically said, ‘Michael, we know it’s going to come apart down the line. When you’re going to be healthy, we’re probably going to need you. When the opportunity presents itself, we’re going to come get you. You’re part of the family. You helped us start this thing.’
“It just felt really good to know that an organization feels that strongly about you.”
Robinson said it “felt” good, but as was described earlier, feelings are a small part of the equation. The Seahawks had a need, and Robinson had the talent to fill it. Purely a mutually beneficial business transaction.
But judging from the shouts and smiles in the Seahawks locker room Tuesday, “feelings” appeared to be a decisive tie-breaker.