On the day the Seattle Seahawks trimmed their roster from 75 to 53, they also learned that defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and safety Jordan Babineaux will miss the Sept. 7 season opener against Buffalo because of league-imposed suspensions.
Bernard was suspended under the league’s personal conduct policy for his offseason arrest for domestic violence abuse when he allegedly punched his ex-girlfriend in the forehead with his fist.
The courts ruled that the charges would be dismissed if Bernard complied with the terms of his probation, but the NFL was not as forgiving. He will lose $235,000 in salary for the suspension.
It is not clear what Babineaux did to earn a one-game suspension and the loss of a paycheck for a second game, but it appears that Babineaux committed an alcohol-related offense that violates the league’s substance abuse policy.
Under the policy, a player who commits an alcohol-related offense can be fined as well as suspended if the offense is more serious.
Babineaux’s agent, John Rickert, declined to reveal what Babineaux’s infraction was, saying Babineaux is trying to put “the incident” behind him.
“It’s a personal matter,” Rickert said. “He dealt with it in a mature fashion. He’s looking toward the future and not dwelling on it. It has made him a better person in the end, and he is just looking forward to Week 2 and getting back to the Seahawks.”
Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in the offseason, but his first-time infraction is not punishable under the league’s substance abuse policy.
The suspensions actually provided the Seahawks with a little more flexibility regarding personnel decisions because Bernard and Babineaux don’t have to be fit onto the roster until they return Sept. 8.
On Saturday, the team placed wide receiver Ben Obomanu and defensive end Chris Cooper on injured reserve, ending their seasons. Obomanu suffered a broken clavicle in his left shoulder in Friday’s exhibition finale against Oakland.
Cooper has not been able to practice since suffering a leg injury early in training camp.
Having to reduce their roster to 53 players, the Seahawks also waived or terminated the contracts of wide receiver Bryan Gilmore, defensive tackle Larry Tripplett, defensive back Jamar Adams, quarterback Dalton Bell, defensive back Kevin Brown, wide receiver Michael Bumpus, center Ben Claxton, defensive back Marquis Floyd, punter Reggie Hodges, defensive back Kelin Johnson, center Nick Jones, fullback David Kirtman, guard Pat Murray, tight end Joe Newton, linebacker Dallas Sartz, wide receiver Trent Shelton, defensive end Nu’u Tafisi and tackle Kyle Williams.
Most players who clear waivers by this afternoon are eligible for eight spots on the team’s practice squad.
Of more importance than who was cut, however, was which players made the team. That included running back Justin Forsett, defensive ends Baraka Atkins and Jason Babin and kickers Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu.
The front office may be using the loss of Bernard and Babineaux to its advantage, stashing Coutu on its roster for a week while other teams fill out their rosters and their practice squads.
When the suspended players return, the Seahawks likely are hoping other teams don’t have room on their rosters to claim Coutu off waivers. Then they could place him on their practice squad.
It also is likely that either Atkins or Babin will be released once Bernard returns because the Seahawks are not likely to keep more than 10 defensive linemen.
Unless Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell finds a free agent punt returner this week, it appears that the 5-foot-7, 194-pound Forsett has made the team because of his special teams skills.
That possibility was opened to Forsett when Obomanu suffered his season-ending injury Friday. Obomanu was the only other player on the roster really capable of returning punts because neither Nate Burleson nor Courtney Taylor will be able to do it as starting receivers.
Josh Wilson could return kickoffs, but he does not return punts. Forsett made the team despite fumbling twice in the final two exhibition games, including muffing a punt against the Raiders.
The Seahawks also chose not to place wide receiver Deion Branch on the physically unable to perform list, an indication they expect him to return sooner rather than later.
Branch underwent knee surgery to repair an anterior cruciate tear in February. He has not practiced since, though coach Mike Holmgren said he hopes Branch can begin practicing this week.
If Branch was placed on the PUP list, he would have been required to miss a minimum of six games. Because Branch remains active, as does injured wide receiver Bobby Engram, Bumpus, a product of Washington State, was let go despite an impressive camp.
He is likely to be named to the practice squad if he clears waivers.