RENTON — Most of the motivational epigrams spread across the Seahawks headquarters bear the fingerprints of coach Pete Carroll – Master of the Mantra.
Since Carroll arrived, “Always Compete,” and “I’m In” have become as common as the image of the hook-beaked bird of prey on the helmet.
This year’s theme, though, comes from a different source, and may be even more meaningful to the players because it’s one they created themselves.
As they close in on the start of a season weighted by the highest expectations in franchise history, players and staff can be seen wearing shirts featuring: “Leave No Doubt – 24-7.”
It’s an outgrowth of a string of off-field headlines that caused some veterans to, indeed, have some doubts about the total commitment of everybody on the roster.
When 2012 first-round draft pick Bruce Irvin became the fifth Seahawks player to be suspended for a bad drug test since 2011, veterans called a meeting. It was obvious that the four-game loss of a top pass-rusher would be a threat to their goal of dethroning San Francisco in the NFC West.
Players such as Mike Robinson, Kam Chancellor and others sent the message – it’s time to grow up. And that’s an around-the-clock proposition.
“It’s a concept the players came up with,” said Mo Kelly, whose title is director of player development, but his de facto position is that of concerned uncle or caring big brother. “We had some bad things that were well-documented, so the team came together and stressed that you’re representing this organization, as well as yourself, at all times.”
The players, Kelly said, asked to have the admonition posted in the locker room, and they printed up the shirts. And because it was a product of their own initiative, it’s “absolutely” a more effective reminder than if it came down from above, he said.
“We do a great job of representing the team when we’re here, but we want to be mindful that when we’re away from the field, we’re also Seahawks, and we have to carry ourselves – at all times – with that in mind,” said Red Bryant, veteran defensive end. “It’s up to the older guys to show the younger ones that there’s a code of conduct they need to follow.”
Tackle Russell Okung stressed the meaning of the “24-7” part. After all, a 24-6 approach leaves room for problems.
“It’s an all-day, everyday thing,” Okung said. “Off the field, on the field, here, at home, we’re always Seahawks. We have to be accountable, and we have to hold each other accountable for making the right decisions, too. We have some goals and we have a purpose we believe in. We believe in each other and we want to get this done together.”
Bryant looked at that responsibility from a practical perspective.
“I have to know that if I do something that is going to cause me to not be available on Sunday, that doesn’t just affect me, but everybody else on the team, too,” Bryant said.
One lapse in judgment can cause a player to be remembered for that rather than for everything else he’d accomplished in his career, Bryant said. “You have such a small opportunity to do something memorable,” he added, “you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong thing.”
Some close losses early last season were an example of the narrow margin of error in the NFL. A play here or there and the Seahawks might have won one or two of their four road losses in the first half of a season in which they finished only a half-game behind San Francisco in the division standings.
How different might a close loss in Games 1-4 this season turn out to be if Bruce Irvin had been available to provide a timely sack instead of being suspended?
“We talked about it, it’s time for everybody to grow up and get beyond that kind of stuff,” Chancellor said. “All the small issues that can affect the team, we have to take care of those things so we can all keep moving forward together.”
The common mitigation is that so many of these players are in their early 20s. That’s not an acceptable excuse anymore, not with so much at stake.
“You can say that guys are young and will make mistakes,” Kelly said. “Sure, but we want to be better than that. Everybody has to remember: We signed up for this. If you play this game, you have to know it comes with notoriety and (scrutiny) and all the other things. It comes with responsibilities that you have to be willing to accept.”
And if somebody slips up now, it’s not as if they haven’t been reminded of these responsibilities – 24/7.