For a coach and an organization that prides themselves on working the edges, it’s not too surprising that Pete Carroll and the Seahawks sometimes fall off the edge. The issue is whether the NFL wants to legislate away some of Seattle’s edge.
“I’m really disappointed,” Carroll said Wednesday after the news Tuesday that the NFL fined the Seahawks $300,000 and some practice time for allowing too much contact in June’s practices. “I don’t want to be doing things wrong. I want to do things right. I like to show exactly how to do it. When you’re competing like we do, we are trying to do things the best you can possibly do it.”
The fine is pocket change. The lost practice time can be worked around. What’s awkward is that it’s embarrassing for Carroll because he prides himself in persuading players to adapt to the changing climate regarding player health in the NFL.
Carroll wants no players dwelling on the rules as they were, only as they are: No helmet-to-helmet hitting, no use of the helmet as a weapon, no striking of defenseless players, no stretching of contact rules in pass defense, etc.
Fifteen years from now, when NFL players will have been trained since pee-wee football (should it exist) on how to hit to minimize hurt, the game prior to 2010 will seem barbaric. But at the moment, those trained in gridiron barbarism still dominate, and all lament the decay into civility.
Carroll can’t have that distraction. Not only as a practical, game-management matter — the Seahawks led the NFL in penalties per game the past season with eight, and in yards lost relative to opponents (minus 353) — he can’t have players pouting about the changes and blowing assignments.
Some misguidedness from players is inevitable; I’m guessing that even some players don’t realize the lessened-contact rules were collectively bargained with the union. Since some in union leadership and their attorneys are old enough and retired enough to understand the grim health data for many players over 40, they are attempting to help players too consumed by the 25-and-under warrior culture to care.
Beyond that, there’s the national ridicule. Another rules bust — the Seahawks were punished in 2012 for similar over-amperage — fuels critics who have never forgiven Carroll his USC exit and call him Pete the Cheat and his team the Seadderall Seahawks.
Will ridicule bother the Seahawks? No. But will the cumulative evidence of pushed envelopes begin to work against the team in game calls and rules changes? That would surprise no one.
The Seahawks already take pride in knowing that the changes in enforcement of illegal contact in pass defense for 2014 were largely from their tactics that often went unpunished by officials despite opponent complaints.
The Seahawks say they’ll adjust. But no one can know the impact until a full season is in.
Of the penalties this week, Carroll didn’t take specific issue with the decision but sounded a little strained in his justification.
The first year (the 2012 penalties) they had some question with how we worked,” he said. “Then we had a great year last year. We took from last year and tried to do things better than last year with the same tone and the same thought. They decided otherwise when they looked at the film, or something. That we had a couple instances (presumably practice fights) they took note to.
“We’re always competing here. I mean, that’s how we do this. We’re trying to do things exactly right. We’re not trying to push it over the top. (In 2013) at the halfway point of camp, we heard we got a really good report about the way we were working. So we stayed with it. In our mini-camp, there was an incident that they took note to. Unfortunately, this decision makes it look otherwise.”
No one is denying the competing. But when the Seahawks were so good, they invite the speculation about cheating wherever the rules are gray.
Even though it’s tempting for fans to say the league and its officials are out to get the Seahawks because of their success, that is unlikely. The NFL isn’t the NBA; Commissioner Roger Goodell may be many things, but he’s not a petty tyrant.
But because of the drumbeat of complaints that drove the rules changes as well as the historic dominance, the Seahawks defenders inevitably are subject to more scrutiny.
If a kid is suspected of breaking windows, rocks in the pockets cannot be dismissed, if only to prove vigilance.