Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recited the grim medical report.
Four of the five players in his nickel secondary package — with nine Pro Bowls among them — might need offseason surgery.
Others were banged up in the game or in the process of the last two seasons that stretched to 38 grueling and combative games.
But there is a more important healing that needs to be accomplished between the end of Super Bowl 49 and the start of the next season: It’s to the players’ trust.
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The Seahawks of the past few seasons have succeeded mostly because of their talent, their speed and unwavering confidence. Those shared beliefs have been built by Carroll and his staff. Players have “bought in” because they believe. And they believe because everything Carroll has preached has come true.
And, by extension, that trust includes Carroll’s staff.
That’s why guys like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor fought to win a world championship on Sunday despite injuries that will likely need surgical repair.
And cornerback Jeremy Lane ended up with a gruesome broken arm after making an interception and fighting for extra return yards. And defensive end Cliff Avril suffered a concussion.
These guys commit themselves to this degree because they trust one another and the staff.
And when it comes to the final 26 seconds of the game, when all the sacrifice and pain is supposed to be rewarded, their valiant rally surely would result in a powerful 1-yard Marshawn Lynch plunge into the end zone.
Except Carroll/staff call a slant-in pass that was intercepted to give New England the 28-24 win, and give the Seahawks infinite heartache.
Announcers immediately called it the worst play call in Super Bowl history. After all, it was only second down, and they had a timeout remaining, and they were in possession of Lynch, the hardest-running back in the NFL.
Carroll’s explanations on Monday morning at the Seahawks’ hotel echoed those he tried to sell after the game. They wanted to use all the time so the Patriots wouldn’t get the ball. They needed to pass it because they sent in a three-receiver package while the Pats countered with a goal-line package of run-stoppers.
When it failed spectacularly, Carroll did the right thing. He courted the blame. Even though offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell calls the plays.
And when quarterback Russell Wilson was asked about the interception in his postgame interview, he, too, claimed it was all his fault. Even though he was running the play somebody else called, and his pass basically was on time and on target.
Bevell said most of the right things, until he suggested that receiver Ricardo Lockette could have made a stronger move to the ball. Although the Patriots’ defender, cornerback Malcolm Butler, made a play far more savvy and physical than one might expect from an undrafted rookie from an NCAA Division II school, Lockette should have had the leverage and the size to hold him off.
Still, it was a violation of the standing Carroll-mandated accountability.
Carroll certainly observed that rule of thumb, standing foursquare behind Bevell, calling him an incredible play-caller who is “crucially important to our future.”
He went on to cite the extraordinary effort of guys like Thomas (shoulder) and Sherman (elbow), and added that for Chancellor (knee) to play “was superhuman stuff.”
The team’s competitiveness was at super levels, too, and it contributed to one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever.
So it seems that those guys earned more. If not a victory (because New England earned every bit of it, too), at the very least a better effort on the final play.
To guys who had left their guts on the field, to call a pass at that time rather than pound Lynch into the line a couple of times, had to feel like a betrayal. It wasn’t who they were. It wasn’t part of their identity.
Carroll was asked about the team’s emotions, and he said their resolve is very strong, and they’re absolutely clear that the future is “very, very bright.”
“It’s something we have to deal with, that in the long run will make us stronger,” Carroll said. “It’s pretty hard right now.”
These players have made this a Golden Age in Seahawks football, going to back-to-back Super Bowls. Pete Carroll has been a huge part of that, convincing them of the power of their common will.
There’s little doubt they will come back next season with more talent than any team in the NFL.
But they won’t make it back to Super Bowl 50 if they aren’t once again completely convinced that the staff will give them the best chance to win.