Seahawks' Pete Carroll Preaches Adaptability Heading Towards Uncertain Training Camp
At the center of his philosophy as a coach and instructor, Pete Carroll has always preached competition at all levels of the Seahawks organization from the players to the assistant coaches to the scouting department.
This offseason, that foundational principle has taken on new meaning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Teams haven't been able to participate in on-field OTAs or minicamps, instead resorting to virtual online meetings as a replacement.
As expected, Carroll challenged his coaches and players to make the most of an unprecedented situation. Members of Seattle's staff were urged to keep these meetings proactive for players and per Carroll, they answered the call, coming up with creative and competitive ways to instruct and make the most of these opportunities.
"I think we're smarter at this point because of the added time we've had to work and really focus on the mental side of it than we've ever been," Carroll said on Thursday. "We have been disciplined, strict about it. It's been amazing how much interaction there's been."
While Carroll has been blown away by how successful these virtual sessions turned out for the Seahawks, however, he's not blind to the challenges many players will face once they finally can return to the field.
As the NFL has tried to navigate through the pandemic, protocols have been put in place to slowly bring employees, coaches, and eventually players back to team facilities. The hope remains that practices will be able to resume in some capacity as early as mid-July.
An earlier start would allow coaches adequate time to get their players back into football shape, but as Carroll pointed out, the league will likely set up training camps as a condensed version of a typical offseason program.
"Somewhere in there, there's going to be a date where we're going to be able to - they're aiming to kick us into activity," Carroll said. "And it'll be kind of scheduled - I see it kind of like a little bit of phase one, a little bit of phase two getting us ready for football."
As a result, there has been discussion between the NFL and the player's association about shortening the preseason from four games down to two. Nothing has been settled to this point, but regardless, Seattle and the other 31 teams will have to be ready to adapt in an ever-changing time.
If the league does opt to trim the preseason down to only a pair of games, Carroll believes young players, specifically the incoming 2020 draft class, will be the ones impacted the most.
"I think the number one thing that it changes is the opportunity for the young guys to show themselves. When a young guy gets hurt, it really hinders him more so than an experienced player and that's because he misses the development time."
As seen with 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier, who missed the entire preseason last August with an ankle injury, losing those valuable snaps can be debilitating to a player's growth. Once he returned early in the regular season, the former TCU standout struggled to carve out a role on Seattle's defense and finished with just three tackles on the season.
Similarly, second-round pick Marquise Blair also missed time during training camp and a pair of preseason games. Missing out on those reps set him back as well, though he eventually did start three games for the Seahawks and had a fairly productive rookie season on special teams.
After already losing OTAs and minicamps this spring, Carroll knows teams will already be up against the clock trying to help incoming rookies prepare for their first NFL action. Canceling exhibition games would only put these players as well as fringe veterans at a greater disadvantage.
"If that was to take place - even though I'm extremely impressed with our young guys and how they've learned and how they've applied themselves up to this point - but still, there just might not be enough time to really give them a chance, so you might be behind in that area a bit."
No matter how the schedule shakes out, Carroll views this as yet another excellent opportunity to compete and do it better than anyone else. All 31 other teams will have to adjust to similar conditions and be ready for more changes on the fly playing through a global health crisis.
Staying positive as always, Carroll believes his players are much further ahead than when the NFL had a lockout in 2011 due to the virtual meetings. Though there will be plenty more obstacles to overcome, he's confident in the Seahawks handling whatever is thrown their way moving forward.
"What it really calls for is we have to be wide open, we have to be ready to adapt... Like always, whatever it is, it's going to be equal and we're going to kick butt in the competition of making the most of the opportunities that we have."