RENTON, Wash. — If one practice on a scorching Seattle day means anything, the 2017 Seahawks games might be a series of UFC events. Man, this team was chippy on the first practice in pads of the summer.
“Hey Frank,” Pete Carroll said to young defensive end Frank Clark a half-hour after this testy training-camp practice ended, “thanks for setting a good tempo out there today.’’
Well, if “tempo” means “scrum,” Clark did a good job. He mixed it up with a couple of Seahawks offensive lineman and had to be separated time and again for 15 or 20 seconds midway through practice. Later, running back Thomas Rawls forearm-shivered a safety’s facemask, and a donnybrook nearly broke out. Later, when a rookie running back (I didn’t catch the number) celebrated too much in the end zone for the veterans’ tastes, wideout Doug Baldwin got into the kid’s face and read him the riot act.
Oh, and Richard Sherman and Baldwin yapped at each other pretty good for a time during practice.
This was a testosterone practice. It reminded me of the old days at training camp, when coaches sometime had to call an end with an hour left because so many little brush fires threatened to get some people hurt. It’s a good thing Carroll blasts music at 80 or so decibels at practices, so the media couldn’t hear the invectives being thrown around.
“This is who we are,” Rawls said later, walking into the facility toward the locker room. “Brothers in here [the locker room], fierce competitors out there.”
Fierce is putting it mildly. I’ve seen a lot of training-camp practices, and I’m not saying this was a prison-yard brawl. What I’m saying is that in a world where teammates protect themselves on the practice field, this practice had the intensity of a game with playoff implications. Guys were ticked off on the field.
I was left to think about the state of the Seahawks afterward. They were roiled by Seth Wickersham’s ESPN story in the offseason, which said, essentially, that Richard Sherman hated Russell Wilson, and that the blown Super Bowl against New England has not been forgotten. Sherman got dangled in trade—apparently because he was interested in starting over elsewhere—but no team would pay Seattle’s ransom of two high draft choices, so he was back on the field Tuesday afternoon in his seventh summer as a Seahawk. A testy offseason team workout had enough contact (forbidden under the collective bargaining agreement) that the Seahawks got docked a fifth-round draft choice for the violation. And then, on the eve of camp, top pick Malik McDowell got into a serious ATV accident that will sideline him quite possibly for a long while. Seattle officials weren’t saying much about the accident or about McDowell’s future, but the silence told me Tuesday that this could be a serious injury. Who knows when, or if, McDowell will next play.
This is a huge year for Seattle. The 49ers and the Rams are retooling with new young coaches and cap money to spend, and the Cardinals are threatening for at least one more year. Seattle might be seeing its window close. (And boy, do they hate talking about that around here; Seahawks players think it’s abject nonsense. But facts are facts. The defense is likely to have six starters 28 or older, and maybe seven.) So this could well be the last time most of these players are together for a shot at a third NFC championship in five seasons.
Carroll didn’t read as much into it as I did.
“We wanted to have a rousing first day,” he told me when the place settled down. “We practice at a level where we always want to restrain ourselves. We spent the whole offseason figuring how to stay within the guidelines. We’ve been assessed way more than anyone else, so we’re trying to find the edge there.
“Our players are trying to draw the best they can out of the guy across from them. They know, in practice, they have to bring their best. Each guy is practicing at his best, and in turn, he’s drawing the best out of the guy across from him. They all know that. We encourage the challenge mentality—getting the best out of each other. However, we also talk at great length about the responsibility that they have to be poised so they don’t go too far, and that they don’t disrespect anyone. If it goes beyond too far, then we’re all over it. But we’re going to that edge, all the time.”
The Seahawks are a fascinating chemistry experiment. Right now, they’re my most interesting team to watch of 2017.
Now onto your email:
TERRELL DAVIS RAISED THE BAR
Rick Gosselin certainly has a right to his opinion, but I thought his obviously insulting point about Terrell Davis was below the belt, especially just before TD’s induction. Most often, we hear that Davis’s career is most similar to Gale Sayers’ run in terms of brevity and production. So, did Sayers also “lower the bar” for running backs too? That’s nonsense. People recognize that Gale Sayers was a great running back and worthy of the Hall of Fame. Davis’s numbers, if anything, are better than Gale's. Cheap shot Gosselin. If anything, TD raised the bar.
—John R., Elizabeth, Colo.
Gosselin’s point was pretty simple: The cases of those candidates who had shorter careers of dominance will be significantly helped by Davis’s entry into Canton. Davis had three truly great years, and one very good year, and that was it. What Gosselin said is true. The wording might feel insulting, but Davis’s enshrinement propels a lot of candidates who were marginal for Canton because of short periods of dominance into a new world of hope for the Hall.
JACOBY VS. BOSELLI
Saying Tony Boselli is more worthy than Joe Jacoby of Hall of Fame induction equals Terrell Davis being more worthy than Jim Brown; in other words, not at all. Jacoby redefined the position. There is no Boselli without Jacoby, like no Davis without Brown. Would both of you please turn down your obvious anti-Washington bias? I expect not.
Joe Jacoby “redefined” the tackle position. How?
MICHAEL VICK DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE
I am a regular reader of your column. I just wanted to thank you for your statements regarding the Kansas City Star editorial on Michael Vick. As someone with a family member who was convicted of a crime, served his time and now some 10 years later we just want to live life … people can't let go. What is most interesting to me is that the most vehement and vocal people against felons getting second chances are those who are so proud of the “American Way,” wave the flag, support our troops and the Constitution. They don’t seem to understand what this country they so love stands for. Anyway, thanks. I look forward to a new season of football and MMQB.
I have always found it fascinating why people still give Vick a hard time. This editorial was in the KC Star, the paper that covers the Chiefs, who employ Tyreek Hill, who pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation. Did Vick and Hill commit a crime and were they punished for it? Yes. Evidently in the eyes of the editorialist, what Vick did to dogs is more heinous than what Tyreek Hill did to the mother of his baby.
Two good emails. Thanks a lot for writing them. My feeling on Vick and his life is that he should be able to have one, freely.
BOSTON SPORTS JOURNAL MODEL
Just a quick note about your blurb on Greg Bedard and what he has started up in Boston. He actually bought his platform from Dejan Kovacevic of the site DK Pittsburgh Sports, which has been in existence for the past three years and is doing quite well. Kovacevic has broken that old-guard view that only newspapers can cover a city’s sports franchises. I just want to make sure you give credit where it’s due.
Thanks for pointing that out. Dejan deserves praise for starting something that could end up being a standard for passionate sports markets. I surely hope it is.
NO DENVER BEER?
If you were in Denver last week but didn’t post some beernerdness in your Monday column, were you really in Denver? On a side note, the Mexican craft beer scene, especially in Mexico City, has exploded in last couple of years. Another reason to go down there to see the Pats and Raiders. Final note: I started watching the NFL 10 years ago in college in Mexico. Until then I had never been interested in the game, but my friends are huge fans of the game and they gathered to see them on Sundays, so I started watching the games with them. But I only started loving the sport after a couple of years of reading your columns. Thank you for being the best part of my Mondays. Saludos!
Wow! Thanks a lot, Roberto. So good of you, and I truly appreciate your kind words. Regarding the lack of beernerdness and other personal stuff in my column the other day: I’m sorry about it. I just got jammed up traveling and writing, and something had to be sacrificed. I wasn’t in Denver long enough to sample the local brew fare. But I’ve written in the past about Avery White Rascal and other local beers from Coors Field. Colorado’s beer scene is tremendous.
WE GET IT: YOU’RE A BABY BOOMER
I enjoy your column, but this week’s edition was full of more interminable baby boomer references than usual. Winston Churchill’s leadership abilities and how they apply to football. A beyond left-field reference to U2. Dak Prescott, a 24-year-old QB, expressing admiration for Bruce Springsteen, your own personal man-crush and an artist who last released a relevant album exactly 30 years ago. Either that is magical coincidence or the Cowboys and Broncos PR folks knew exactly how to get your attention.
—Steve, Alameda, Calif.
So … I take it you didn’t like the column. Thanks for the feedback.
Dean Spanos’s comment, “You may start to see the downsizing of stadiums in sports anyway,” is super interesting. I think he’s right. Levi’s Stadium is a great example. They went so overboard with the luxury boxes there that it has affected the composition of the crowd. The people who are there because they got comped seats with food and drink are now a meaningful percentage of the audience at home games. You can feel the disaffection in the atmosphere, and that’s a bad omen going forward. I think we’ll see a contraction of stadiums going forward, focusing the crowd on people who actually want to be there. All we need is another economic downtown to devastate luxury box rentals to kick it off.
Great point. But I wonder—if the Niners were winning since the stadium, would things be different? I think they would be.
SPANOS’S FIGHT FOR L.A.
Spanos can look himself in the mirror because he refuses to see what is there. He did virtually nothing to build the coalitions necessary to garner public funding for a stadium project [in San Diego]. He failed and refused to collaborate with city and business leaders to draft an initiative that they could support. Worst of all, he completely and utterly disrespected and ignored the many fans who followed, cheered for and financially supported his team for decades. He spent more time in the L.A. media in the first week than he did in the San Diego media in the past two decades. Ultimately, he is a Punch and Judy owner; a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. The NFL should be ashamed for allowing him to move this team. The Chargers and the NFL better pray Philip Rivers stays healthy. If the team is bad, the “fight for L.A.” will be over quickly, and the folly of this move will be fully exposed.
—Jeff B., San Diego
Thanks for writing, Jeff. We got a few of these letters, and yours represents the majority. I think in cases like this, the solution for an owner, always, is communication. I’m always in favor of talking to your locals (both press and citizenry) often in cases like this very controversial one. I don’t think Spanos and the local politicians and voters were going to come very close to a modern stadium solution, regardless of whatever coalition was built. The vote last fall tells me that.
Good to have you back. I do believe CTE will eventually be the downfall of football or at least lessen the player pool to those trying to escape poverty, much like what’s become of boxing. The one thing I haven’t seen and would like to is a comparison between former players and regular people, from doctors and lawyers to store clerks to warehouse workers to waiters, etc. While common sense says repeated blows to the head are bad for you, isn’t this comparison needed to estimate just how bad? Your thoughts, please.
—Dave K., Albuquerque, N.M.
Excellent point. I’d love to know that too. The problem: Not a lot of insurance salesman and software developers and firefighters have pledged (or, honestly, will pledge) their brains to be studied upon their deaths. The issue is being able to get a pool of representative people from all walks of life to have their brains examined.
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