It’s a little early in the NFL season to declare victory. But it’s never too early for coach Pete Carroll to take a victory lap.
The Seahawks are nearly 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19, he said. Pending a handful of second shots, the roster score was 90-1.
“The guys made an extraordinary effort to to take care of one another, particularly the guys who were uncertain about what to do,” he said Wednesday after the first practice of the summer at the team headquarters in Renton. “This is a really big deal.”
Vaccination success was the main news Wednesday, which not only says much about the times in which we live, but also about the relative calm surrounding the Seahawks at the beginning of training camp. Especially compared to, say, Green Bay, where MVP QB Aaron Rodgers returned to the Packers Wednesday and calmly torched club management.
In Renton, the only tension is a potential contract extension for SS Jamal Adams, and no one seems worried, even though he was not among the 91 frolicking upon the lakeside greensward.
The team’s 2020 sack leader is at the VMAC attending meetings and working out. Carroll was eager to dispel any notion of a holdout by the defense’s second-best player.
“I’m very hopeful that it’s going to get taken care of here soon very soon,” he said, using the descriptor “amicable.” Adams had off-season surgeries to repair two fingers and his ri shoulder, and Carroll found the on-going rehab a convenient shield.
“He wouldn’t be working yet, so (his absence) is OK at this time right now,” he said.
Scheduled to make $9.6 million in the final year of the contract that came with him a year ago in his trade from the New York Jets, Adams wants to be paid at least as the game’s top safety, which would be about $16 million. Since he also sacks quarterbacks — 9.5 last season, an NFL record for a defensive back — he thinks he rates more.
In the absence so far of public threats, the assumption is the deal gets done, otherwise the Seahawks look stupid for trading two first-round picks for a star in his final contract year, then failed to secure him long-term.
Regarding the vaccine, Carroll took great pride last season in being the only NFL team without a positive test. Now, another gold star.
“We’ve been strong about our commitment to sticking with it and expecting our attitude to stay good, which is the most important part of this whole thing,” he said. “Our guys have done that. So I’m hoping we can do a great job again.”
Carroll believes there’s a competitive advantage to be had in diligence to the protocols when others teams are less disciplined. Infection disruption struck sports again Wednesday, this time in baseball, when the Washington Nationals had four players and eight staffers test positive, forcing postponement of their game in Philadelphia. It was MLB’s ninth postponed game this season. In the pre-vaccine season of 2020, 45 games were postponed, and all but two were made up.
Carroll’s vaccine urgency was buttressed by a startlingly strong letter from the NFL to all clubs week last week that threatened forfeiture of games for clubs who have covid breakouts and cannot reschedule within the 18-week season. Clubs who have games canceled would be responsible for financial losses, and players were lose game checks. The league separately warned that unvaccinated players will be fined $14,650 every time they violate COVID-19 safety rules.
The draconian threats apparently inspired the rest of the stragglers. Carroll didn’t identify Seattle’s lone holdout.
“He’s got real personal reasons why, going back to his family,” Carroll said. “We’re going to take care of him throughout.”
The Seahawks are underscoring their efforts by asking all players to get tested in each of the first five days of camp, far exceeding the NFL’s mandate of once every two weeks. The ever-changing nature of the virus — the Delta variant had Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday recommending the return of wearing masks indoors for the vaccinated — moved Carroll to tighten down.
“Once every 14 days is not enough; we’re not going to do that,” he said. “That would have been fine two weeks ago, but things have shifted. We have to respond. I hear people gripe that we’re going back to masks and stuff. But we’re willing to do whatever we need to do. We stay in compliance with the league, but we we’re willing to go beyond.”
Word is getting around the NFL. The Washington Post reported this week that the league has reached a vaxx rate of more than 86 percent, although the Post’s hometown team, the Washington Football Team, lags at 60 percent. The pace angered coach Ron Rivera, who survived a bout with a form of skin cancer last season.
“I’m truly frustrated,” Rivera said. “I’m beyond frustrated. One of the reasons I walked in with a mask on is I’m immune-deficient . . . When I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated, or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows (about the new delta variant). I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.”
The Seahawks weren’t without off-season drama — an unprecedented bout of public petulance by QB Russell Wilson has healed over — but at the moment, football life at the VMAC is mostly about finding different ways to say, “he’s in the best shape of his life,” position battles, and wondering whether new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is a young Dumbledore or a young Gandalf.
The Seahawks could always decide to trade one of their best players to the Houston Astros. But really, that’s been done once lately. That’s enough.