Veterans step up to thump some noggins

May 29, 2013 

Sometimes a willful teen learns to tune out parents or authority figures and it’s not until a big brother offers a finger-thump to the side of the head that the message starts getting through.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll last week talked of his commitment to putting an end to the string of six failed tests for performance-enhancers (that led to five player suspensions) in the past three seasons.

But whatever frequency Carroll had been broadcasting, some players obviously weren’t receiving his wavelength.

The suspension last week of rush-end Bruce Irvin pushed

even staunch fans to object: Enough already with the bad drug tests, guys, catch a clue, there’s too much at stake this season to be losing players to suspensions.

A core of Seahawks veterans felt the same way, and called a players-only meeting to address those exact concerns. In essence, saying it’s time to grow up and get smart.

The meeting came to light in a Monday SiriusXM radio interview of strong safety Kam Chancellor. After Tuesday’s offseason workout session at the team headquarters, Chancellor passed along the thrust of the message.

“A few of the veterans had a meeting and talked to the guys,” Chancellor said. “We just talked about making the same mistakes over and over. At some point, you’ve got to mature and grow up and not do the same mistakes. We’ve got to protect the team.”

Linemen John Moffitt and Allen Barbre, and secondary players Winston Guy, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman preceded Irvin in the PED walk-of-shame, although Sherman’s suspension was reversed on appeal.

Aside from the unseemliness of becoming an NFL leader in cheating, the very practical implications of Irvin’s suspension are obvious. With starter Chris Clemons recovering from knee surgery, Irvin was counted on to be the prime rush specialist this fall.

He’ll miss the opener at Carolina. Consider that last year, he sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton twice in a game the Hawks narrowly won, 16-12. And he’ll miss the Week 2 game at home against rival and defending divisional champ San Francisco.

For a team that had to go on the road in the playoffs after last season, that was still only 30 seconds of good pass rush away from beating Atlanta and going to the NFC title game, missing Irvin for a fourth of the season could be extremely costly.

And in that context, it was inexcusable that he didn’t learn from the experiences of the five who failed tests before him. Were you paying attention at all? It was in all the papers.

There doesn’t seem to be what the NCAA labels “lack of institutional control” with this team in most regards. So it’s not so much a pattern of lawlessness as it is cluelessness to not take notice when a teammate gets busted and has to sacrifice one-fourth of his annual salary.

“We all owe each other accountability,” Chancellor said of the team’s talk. “It’s all about being accountable and holding each other to a higher standard.”

The meeting was initiated, Chancellor said, by fullback Mike Robinson, a valuable team leader in both deed and word. They listened to the staff speak for 40-45 minutes, Chancellor said, before Robinson kicked off a half-hour meeting with the players.

“I think it touched everybody more hearing it from the players,” Chancellor said. “I think everybody felt it and took it in and learned from the meeting.”

He said it was up to the veterans because “the young guys want to be in your position; you’ve got to lead them in the right way.”

The response from the team was positive, he said.

“It shows how mentally strong guys are, to take constructive criticism … and how much they care for each other.”

We’ll see about the “mentally strong” part. Guys get tempted to find a shortcut, and to try to find an edge, even if they know the risk and the expense.

At least now they understand that big brothers like Robinson and Chancellor are watching.


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