So, the NFL fined and sanctioned the Seahawks for violating rules for contact in offseason practices?
The Seahawks won the Super Bowl because of the way they practice.
Pete Carroll and staff have turned the franchise into a success because they taught the team to practice with energy and intensity that is fomented in daily increments.
Play hard, play fast, compete on every play. That’s how the Seahawks play on game days, because that’s how they practice the rest of the week.
That’s why any number of players have said that games seem easy compared to the intensity with which they practice.
But the NFL ruled that contact during a June minicamp will cost them two days of next year’s minicamp and $300,000. The money is insignificant by NFL standards, but the two days of minicamp are meaningful. Particularly for a team that stresses building the roster not just from players 1 to 53, but 1 through 90, those full-team, mandatory practices are precious.
But it’s a small price for what the Seahawks have established by creating the expectation of fiery competition on a daily basis.
A rough outline as I understand it: On the last day of the June minicamp, receiver Bryan Walters ran a sideline route and dove for a low ball. Safety Earl Thomas was covering him closely and seemed to trip over him.
It was, indeed, contact. But it seemed accidental. It led to some jawing between receivers and secondary players. And soon thereafter, receiver Phil Bates and cornerback Richard Sherman locked up on a typical press-coverage jam, but neither would disengage, and punches were thrown.
No damage was done. But video of the scuffle drew the attention of the NFL, which looked at films of the rest of the practice, and considered it in violation of the most recent collective-bargaining rules on contact that time of year.
Carroll said Wednesday that their style of practice was OK’d by league observers twice in the past two training camps, and what happened on the day in question was no different than the way they’d practiced in the past.
Carroll said the intent has been to do things “exactly right. … We’re not trying to push it over the top.”
Of course, a coach is going to be defensive of his tactics. But there’s some reasons to agree in this case.
Do the Seahawks allow extra contact because they’re insensitive to players’ health? There’s no evidence of that. They don’t have full-contact practices. They are traditionally very conservative in bringing players back to action after injuries.
And Carroll and the Seahawks even have put out an instructional video that educates players and coaches on techniques of tackling that don’t use the head, which would enhance player safety while not eliminating the toughness of the game.
Do Carroll and the staff encourage overly physical play or fighting during practice as a way to fuel the competitive juices?
Well, as soon as they separated the combatants that day, Carroll called the team up for an impromptu meeting, telling them that kind of thing isn’t tolerated. Yes, he wants them to be competitive, but to do so in the context of the game. One of his rules, he stressed, is “don’t hurt the team.”
I’m not suggesting that winning validates cheating. When they had PED violators in the past, they deserved every game of the suspensions that were levied.
In this case, though, there were no drills with the intent of sneaking in work on blocking or tackling to gain a competitive edge.
This team has some of the most intensely competitive athletes on the planet. Twenty-two speedy players going hard on the field at one time are going to collide. And there is going to be friction.
I strongly suspect that every team in the league has had practices that matched the level of contact that occurred that day at Seahawks headquarters.
And I also would contend that if 31 other NFL coaches could get their teams to practice with the speed and focus the Seahawks do, they’d happily pay whatever fines result.