The NFL is investigating the Seahawks for the fourth time in six years.
This time the league is scrutinizing the team for not disclosing star cornerback Richard Sherman’s knee injury until after the season.
The news the NFL has started its investigation of Seattle came early Tuesday in a report from NFL Network.
Monday, coach Pete Carroll revealed Sherman played at least December and into January with an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his knee.
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“Honestly, I didn’t realize we hadn’t revealed it,” Carroll said. “I don’t even remember what game it was, it was somewhere in the middle. ... I don’t know.
“He was fine about it. He didn’t miss anything.”
Sherman’s knee injury never showed up on any of the team’s daily practice reports, nor on injury reports due to the league 48 hours before each game. The Pro Bowl cornerback routinely missed a practice each week over the last month-plus of the regular season and the postseason that ended with Saturday’s loss at Atlanta. That was with what the team listed as “NIR.” That stands for “not injury related.”
Asked why Sherman’s injury never showed up on a practice report, Carroll said Monday: “I don’t know. I’m feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that because that happened, but he was OK.
“So I don’t know. He never missed anything, which is probably why.”
So what’s the big deal now? Why might the league fine the Seahawks even though Sherman did not miss a game?
Before the 2016 season began, the NFL sent to each of its 32 teams a reminder of its policies on official injury reports. In it is this subsection for practice reports:
“The Practice Report provides clubs and fans with an accurate description of a player’s injury status and how much he participated in practice during the week. If any player has a significant or noteworthy injury, it must be listed on the practice report, even if he fully participates in practice and the team expects that he will play in the team’s next game. This is especially important for key players whose injuries may be covered extensively by the media.”
There are precedents for the league fining teams for not disclosing injuries, particularly to star players. In 2009 the NFL fined the New York Jets $125,000 for not reporting an injury to quarterback Brett Favre, for instance.
The NFL previously investigated the Seahawks in 2012, ’14 and ’16, all for alleged violations of limits on player contact during spring minicamps. All three times the league fined Seattle after finding the team broke NFL rules. In September, the league fined the Seahawks $400,000, fined Carroll $200,000 and took away a fifth-round draft choice this year and three of Seattle’s minicamp practices this spring.
So it would be a surprise if the Seahawks don’t at least get fined and maybe more for what appears to be a violation of the league’s practice- and injury-reporting policies.
Yet Carroll saying “my mistake” after the fact that Sherman was playing with a significant knee injury and dealing with the possibility of a sanction from the league is preferable to the Seahawks than opponents knowing Sherman was playing while potentially compromised. Foes’ game plans would have targeted that potential weakness with top wide receivers and pass plays. That potentially would have been more costly, in a pragmatic sense of wins and losses, than a possible fine or other league rebuke.
Carroll met one more time with Sherman after the team returned from Atlanta early Sunday, before the three-time All-Pro began his offseason. Sherman had a tumultuous December and January. He screamed at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Carroll for play-calling decisions during the Dec. 15 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Then he threatened the career of a Seattle radio host and ended his weekly press conferences he called his “privilege” to the media.
“I just wanted to make sure we left on really good terms,” Carroll said. “We talk a lot. I talk with him all the time. I just wanted to make sure to touch base one more time, because it was a difficult year for him.
“The media thing was a big deal and all that. He made it through it. It was hard.”
WRIGHT TO 1st PRO BOWL, GRAHAM’S 4th
“I always wanted to be a part of this!”
That was K.J. Wright’s reaction on Twitter Tuesday after learning he’d been named to his first Pro Bowl.
The six-year veteran had been an alternate. He’s a replacement for Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who won’t play because of an injury.
Tight end Jimmy Graham made the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his six seasons, the last two years with Seattle. He replaces injured Washington tight end Jordan Reed. Graham also made the Pro Bowl in 2011, ’13 and ’14 while with the New Orleans Saints.
Wright and Graham will join Sherman, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in the 2017 Pro Bowl. It is January 29 in Orlando, Florida, on the Sunday between this weekend’s conference title games and Super Bowl 51.
AGENT: CABLE STAYING AS OL COACH
Veteran Tom Cable will remain Carroll’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach, Cable’s agent said. On Sunday, Cable interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers for their vacant head coaching job.
“Just spoke with my client Tom Cable and he is reaffirming his commitment to the Seahawks. He wishes to thank the 49ers for the consideration,” agent Doug Hendrickson posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.
Hendrickson appeared to be getting out ahead of an ESPN report that the 49ers are planning to offer their head job to Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The team cannot formally or by league rules do that until after the Falcons’ postseason is over.
Atlanta, which beat Seattle 36-20 in the divisional round last weekend, hosts Green Bay on Sunday in the NFC championship game.
Cable has been Carroll’s assistant head coach and line coach since 2011.
Cable’s return to Seattle comes with Trent Kirchner withdrawing from consideration to become the 49ers’ new general manager, according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo.
Kirchner is a top personnel man for Seahawks general manager John Schneider. He and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer both interviewed to become the 49ers’ new GM.
Now San Francisco apparently will align its new GM with Shanahan, rather than Kirchner or Fitterer with Cable.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle