Wednesday is the busiest non-game day of the NFL week. In Renton Pete Carroll has his weekly press conference. The opposing coach and star player have a teleconference with the Seattle-area media. Usually at about the same time all that is going on the locker room is open for interviews for the only half hour of the day, before a practice and then interview periods with assistant coaches.
And there was a lot of news yesterday out of Seahawks headquarters. I was initially weighing which one to make one my Seahawks' main story in today's News Tribune: Earl Thomas is no longer the punt returner, Marcus Burley is the new nickel back, Philip Rivers saying he intends to throw in the direction of Richard Sherman on Sunday in San Diego.
But none of that struck me as more important and poignant than what Carroll talked to his players about in a team meeting yesterday morning -- and what the coach and his players had to say about the Ray Rice case, domestic violence in our society and how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has so awfully handled the investigation of the incident that has left Rice belatedly unemployed and indefinitely suspended.
It was an extraordinary topic for an NFL team, on an extraordinary day in the league.
That is why I called the editors at 6:30 last night, changed my tack and wrote this in today's TNT. I can report on football and the upcoming game every other day this season. But this societal issue may not get this high a platform in the league's day-to-day again. Though, as events have shown, it should.
I know this blog and this fan base is about a game and a team, a Super Bowl-champion team, and I don't intend at all to preach. But sports writing is no different than any other writing -- about politics, business, entertainment, crime. It is about people first. Everyone has a story, a background. And this is a subject, domestic violence, that affects far too many people in far too many walks of life. Including, obviously, the NFL.
I welcome the civil discussion on here over the last days about this and other issues. It shows we all aren't cave men (and women) thirsting only for touchdowns and big hits and wins on Sundays.
Sure, the NFL looks awful over the Ray Rice case. Sure, Carroll signed a cornerback in May, A.J. Jefferson, two months after his plea on a domestic-violence charge. Sure, Carroll is savvy enough to pick the correct tone and what I thought were the politically correct words to address the situation yesterday. But the mere fact he talked about domestic violence instead of perhaps safely punting the issue as "not football-related," the fact he says it has changed him and the way he will view and sign players from now on, that is progress. At least it is on one, small front in a battle too prevalent in our world.
OK, I'm done.
--There was some football yesterday -- and will be the rest of the week, too.
I detailed more of Carroll's decision to take Thomas off of punt-return duties in the Seahawks Notebook in today's paper. We've talked about this for almost a month on here now, but if they went to the effort of signing Walters back onto the team the Seahawks should be having him returning punts -- and not their All-Pro safety. After two returns for three yards and a fumble -- albeit one forced by teammate Richard Sherman running into Thomas -- Carroll saw the cost of having Thomas doing that job as well as anchoring the defense as not being worth the benefit.
--Speaking of Sherman, Terry Blount of espn.com brought up to him yesterday that you can now bet in Las Vegas on over/unders on how many times Sherman gets passes thrown his way in a game. (As Don King would bellow: "Only in America!").
"That's legal?" Sherman asked. "In Vegas you can bet on anything."
When I asked him if he was "flattered" by all this attention for being ignored, Sherman laughed and said "I flattered.
"But I need the ball."
The video of some of that is here, including him saying he has to get "craftier" in baiting coaches and quarterbacks to throw his way:
--Beat writer Tom Krasovic of the Union-Tribune in San Diego offered his scouting report of the Seahawks for Chargers fans. In it he writes: "The Chargers need to make cornerback Richard Sherman earn his pay. The Packers' Aaron Rodgers never once tested Sherman in 34 throws. Being timid sends the wrong message."
Rivers said yesterday when I asked him about the Pack ignoring Sherman that the Chargers intend to run their regular offense and test Sherman, as they would any other cornerback in the league.
--Another view from San Diego of how to best go about beating the Seahawks, who have won 21 of their last 25 regular-season games. It includes a discussion about the Chargers starting a backup center, just as Green Bay did in Seattle last week.
Seahawks pass rusher Bruce Irvin laughed yesterday, saying he heard about Rich Ohrnberger being the fill-in for center Nick Hardwick, who went on injured reserve with a neck injury. "I'm not saying nothin' about that," Irvin said with a big grin -- one week after he said he was going to pray for the Packers' backup center. "I pray for everybody -- just some more than others."
--Supposed to be 90 degrees in San Diego on Sunday. And it's usually a couple degrees warmer at Qualcomm Stadium than the city's official high temperature, because the place is in Mission Valley well off the ocean and east of downtown. That defensive-line rotation the Seahawks use, often going as many as eight deep, will come in handy against the Chargers.
--Tuesday, RT Justin Britt, LB Brock Coyle and other Seahawks rookies went to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for a ceremonial change-of-command for the unit the Seahawks have adopted for the 2014 season, the U.S. Coast Guard 13th District, the "Guardians of the Pacific Northwest." (I've jumped out of one of those hulking, C-17s in the background of the opening shot. Good times.)
--Here is the transcript of all of what Carroll had to say yesterday:
Head Coach Pete Carroll
September 10, 2014
(Opening) It’s really obvious that we’re in the season now; you can tell by how we immediate turn around and it’s the next game, the focus, and here we are going on the road to San Diego. We’re really fortunate that we had our break after the Thursday game. We had a couple good days where we could rest and get back. Hopefully that will help us play a good strong football game against a really talented football team. Everyone saw the big Monday Night Football game and it was a really hard fought battle and it really could’ve gone either way and two really good teams battling it out. We know that they’ll be getting ready for us so we’re looking forward to a great week of preparation and hopefully we can turn out a good one.
(On Marcus Burley performance) He was great. For his first shot, I thought he looked really aggressive and I’m sure he’ll be a factor. Obviously he made a huge play on special teams. I’m sure we’ll get to see him.
(On nickel position status) We’re hoping that Marcus will take over that spot. It’s a spot that he’s familiar with. He did a nice job coming in the game in short time. Josh [Thomas] is really an outside guy for us. So we’ll handle our other situations internally as far as backups. We’re looking for Marcus to do a real nice job and take that spot over.
(On what he saw in Marcus Burley and depth at cornerback) He had a really good preseason. You could really see him do the things we needed to see inside as a nickel guy and outside covering. He tackled really well and he was really effective on special teams. He was an aggressive special teams player that look like he would fit in with our guys. As we’ve learned more about him, we realized that he’s a real serious competitor, a real bright kid that wants to learn, and he’s real eager so he’ll jump right at it. We felt like we could tell from what we saw. We’re challenged by the depth situation, we really were counting on Tharold Simon to be there and battling for us. We’ve taken a blow with Jeremy’s (Jeremy Lane) injury. In fact, he’s a fine football player for us. The cool thing is that both of these guys have a chance to get back and they’ll come back to us later on in the year and our depth will feel a lot different. In the meantime, we have to work real hard; Coach Kris [Richard] and Coach Rocky [Seto] will do a good job of catching these guys up. We feel like we can help these guys and they can fit in our system and that’s why they’re here. In the meantime, we have to put it together in a hurry.
(On does he expect Jeremy Lane to be ready at the end of the eight-week injured reserve time window) We’re told that he should be able to get back. He should be able to us the window period and get back to practicing and be ready to go at eight weeks. We have to wait and see how it goes.
(On DeShawn Shead’s versatility being of help) Absolutely. DeShawn is such a valuable guy to us because he can play inside at nickel, he can play safety as well and we like him outside. He’s a big strong kid. He’s always been active as a playmaker and so if he’s in the game, we feel like he can help us and do things.
(On Philip Rivers) He’s an incredible football player. He’s shown over the years that he has great ability for all the intangible stuff: The sense of the field, control of the game, ability to make the big play, he’s had great finishes, red zone efficiency, and third down efficiency. They managed him really well last year. They put together a really nice season and finished so strong and did well in the playoffs also. 24-17 against Denver that was a close game that could have gone either way. We have a lot of regard for his ability and how they have positioned him to be the centerpiece of their offense.
(On similarities of Coach McCoy in SD and Denver that he can draw from Super Bowl) Their similarities are that they’re really good in the throwing game, they protect really well, and they know how to keep the quarterback clean. The Denver offense is really tailored more to the background of Peyton than this [San Diego] is so it seems a little different.
(On Christine Michael’s status) He ran great yesterday, he’s taking today off, and he’ll come back real strong tomorrow and we’ll find out what that means. We’ll just go day to day with it, but I just talked to him and he feels really good. He’s excited that he’s got a chance to get back. If he makes it back this week, that will be really good. For sure, he should have a great chance for the following week.
(On Bobby Wagner’s continuous improvement) I think Bobby’s going to continue to improve much like we’ve seen Russell Wilson improve. The time that you’re out there, there is so much going on, he’s right in the middle of so much action that in time, things will just continue to slow down for the next couple of years. He’ll anticipate plays, concepts, blocks, and reads on routes. He’ll process that better as he’s out there more. It’s not a one year, I got it deal. It’s not a two year deal. I think it takes three, four, five years for these guys to really benefit from the experience, consistency, and continuity of the system that they’re in. It’s exciting, that’s why we’re so excited about Russell continuing to improve. I think Bobby and a lot of our younger guys have a chance to do that and I think he will for sure.
(On Ray Rice situation and how it was handled) It’s an extremely serious situation. I think that they got it right. I think it’s another example of those enormous situations that people learn so much from and we can grow so much from. Hopefully the process and the visibility will bring awareness throughout our society that we need to take care of one another much better and we need to respond accordingly.
(On QB’s that process plays before the snap make it harder to prepare) If you look at it from what we saw last week, this week, and next week against Denver, we’re seeing very similar expertise. The guys really understand the game to such great depth, that their coaches have recognized that and given them the opportunity to run the game at the line of scrimmage. It’s the challenge that they’re so good and they get to utilize their strengths by seeing what they want to see, changing what they need to change, so I think we’re as challenged as you can get by the level of play by these guy. There is no drop offs and it’s amazing that we see three terrific quarterbacks right in a row. Philip, his coaches buy into his strengths so they allow him to utilize all of those intangibles that only the quarterback can have when they’ve played long time, great experience, and have all the other factors too. So it’s hard for us but we can’t do anything about it so we’re going to get ready for them.
(On conventional quarterbacks playing to the strengths of the Seahawks defense) When we play the quarterbacks that run, they really bring the element that’s most difficult to defend because the play starts over and new things happen whether it be run or pass, whether the scramble to run or scramble to throw. So that’s an element that’s most challenging, sometimes it works for us, but most of the time it’s difficult. That doesn’t make it easy and these guys have put up thousands of yards for years and shown tremendous efficiency and great numbers because they’re great players. There are a lot of people that don’t agree with me about the scrambling quarterback. They think that you need to be the pocket guy to utilize the system. Obviously these guys have proven that. So I may be wrong about that, but I know from a defensive coach’s standpoint that the scrambler like Aaron [Rodgers] posts other issues that are really challenging. These guys have proven over the test of time that they’re great hanging in the pocket throwing from there.
(On keys to a four man pass rush) I think you need a good combination of guys. It’s not all everyone is the same: all fast guys, or all big guys or else it won’t work. You need the right combination of guys. I’m really hoping that Bruce [Irvin] continues to develop. He’s had one week of practice. He had a tremendous Monday practice and he can’t remember when he’s felt this freed up. He’s had a hip issue in all his playing years, all the way back in college. If he can continue to improve and complement what we have on the other side with Cliff [Avril], Michael [Bennett], and combination of guys that rush for us in our fourth man spot. It’s them fitting together, it’s their chemistry, them making the most of their opportunities, that sense for one another. You need speed and you want versatility and hopefully we’re developing that. The fourth rush spot, whether it’s Jordan Hill, Cassius [Marsh], or Kevin [Williams], or Tony [McDaniel], we have a different ways we can do it. Like last year, we’re still developing the mix, but there is nothing like the speed off the edge. Fortunately as Bruce returns, we’ll have that.
(On watching the San Diego game as a fan) I can’t watch it as a fan I’m a coach. I can only see it through the coach’s eye, but I love that opportunity. To have the background of playing against them in the preseason and all the information you can get from watching the guys from the announcers and the statistics that come up set up this Monday/Tuesday preparation for today very well for us. We feel very familiar and comfortable with that information than you normally get. It seems as if we just dug in. We never see Sunday games so Monday gave us that rare opportunity and we’ll try to take full advantage of that.
(On what you’ve seen out of TE Zach Miller so far this year) Zach’s doing everything we’ve asked of him. He’s solid, he’s tough, he blocks, he’s versatile, he’s made big catches and key blocks. He understands the game so well that he takes advantage of that regularly. To make the right choice and the right decision he had a really key block on a terrific run by Percy [Harvin], out on the edge where a younger guy may have held on just a hair too long and drawn a foul. It’s as simple as it may sound, his timing and feel for that was perfect so we get a 15 yard play instead of a penalty. The great diving catches that he makes, he’s a stud for us and I think he’s doing great.
(On number of sacks after halftime and how much is attributable to the depth and rotation you do off of the front) It helps when you’re ahead in games. They have to throw it so you know you get to rush. That’s really where a lot of that should come from. We’re more in the rush mode because the score allows us to. You can give us credit for those other things if you want. I think that’s a key indicator. But we have good hungry guys and we’re young. I’ve always believed in the rotation so that guys can stay strong, not just in the game but throughout the schedule. Maybe that’s working for us too.
(On the mix still developing and how far along is that) I can’t tell you that we’ve nailed the fourth rush guy. There’s still a good open competition for that and we still like to move Mike [Morgan] around and move him back outside at times. We have a variety of ways we’re doing that and we’ll just go with it as it comes to us and figure it out as we get the information.
(On if he was in the position of how the Chargers played on a Monday night compared to a team who has three days more of rest, would you register a complaint) No, it is what it is. Sometimes you have to play a Thursday game after Sunday, and you just do it. I don’t see any reason ever to complain about stuff like that. There’s nothing you can do about it. We just go ahead with the stuff we have and make the schedule fit the opportunity and make the most of it. I’d find a really cool positive in there.
(On the punt return situation) It looks really good. Here’s what we’re going to do here. I think that the focus from Earl [Thomas] on the punt thing is so much because he wants to do so well that I’d like to take that off him. He’s going to still be available for us on punt returns and we’ll use him when we need him but we’ll use Bryan Walters back there and mix our guys as we go. I just noticed in the game that he wants to do so well that his focus is challenged and I’d rather have his focus playing at safety. After the long experiment and time that we spent doing it, he’s not doing it.
(On FS Earl Thomas reaction to the punt return situation) He understands. He sees it. He has such tremendous pride in his position and what he brings to defense and what it takes to get that focus. He sensed it also, so we really just talked it through. It made sense to him too and he actually had the same thought the night before when I talked to him. This is an opportunity for him to really focus even more where we need him the most. The thing that I love the most is he wants to do it so badly. That’s such an important factor usually for the punt returns that they want to get out there and go do it. Bryan Walters has had a tremendous background in catching punts. He’s got great hands and great decision making. As far as I’m concerned we’re getting an excellent situation guide for us. Doug [Baldwin] will be back there too. He does a really nice job back there too. We’re in good shape numbers wise, I think it will fit a little bit better.
(On how he determines who goes back and what factors are included) I try to do that really well. Whether I do or not we’ll find out.
(On if it had to do with the possibility of Earl Thomas getting hurt returning punts) No it’s really about his focus. He’s going to give you everything he’s got and everything you ask him to do. He hasn’t had to do that for these few years as he started his career. I don’t think he needs that as I’ve watched him come about. It took a while we didn’t give him any returns in preseason and we didn’t get a good chance to really see him. It just took a little bit longer to figure out.
(On if a guy like WR Kevin Norwood is healthy, does he have to carry an extra active receiver) No.
(On looking from a roster standpoint and handling a Ray Rice situation) Looking through the history of it is different than what it is now because of our elevated awareness. Unfortunately, we had to see an incident that elevated our awareness to really get to the right place. It’s unfortunate we have to learn the hard way but that’s really what I would say. So I talk to the team about it today and we talked about the serious nature of it. We made it aware to them that we will help them in any way that we can if they’re aware of situations or they feel uncomfortable or they have concerns about. We’ll try to elevate their awareness to as we go. Unfortunately after such a serious incident, generally our awareness will grow and we’ll be better off because of it and we’ll all think differently. Unfortunately we had to learn that way and for the people that have been involved in that, our hearts go out to them and the depth of their pain. Hopefully we’ll just do better and we’ll be better for it and hopefully our players will.
(On evaluating players) It will never be the same. I have to admit, my awareness is different than it was. I don’t think it will ever be the same that it was. I’m glad that I can say that now, because hopefully we can prevent any issue that may come up in the future.
(On facing offense that are heavy no huddle or hurried up like San Diego, you have a good base guys, are you less vulnerable than some defenses) I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re less vulnerable. We have good enough athletes at our positions that it’s basically about the matchups. The matchups that you have is why you go nickel to get another DB on the field. We have such well-equipped athletes that we really can hold up in base defense against three wide receivers and mix our game that we don’t do it all the time but we reserve the right to do that and we do that regularly. We can make it work is what it amounts to.
(On although the little things such as receiving numbers and yards on TE Zach Miller get noticed, how valuable is the rest) It’s extremely valuable to us. His background goes all the way back with Tommy (Tom Cable) at the Raiders. Tom started with him learning all of the little tricks that Zach [Miller] does. All of the awareness that he has and all the movement and positions that we place him in, he is a perfect pro. He knows everything he needs to know and he’ll execute it almost exactly right, if he doesn’t he fixes it the very next time. You just can count on him. He’s a responsible and accountable guy. He’s extremely valuable to us. We don’t look at anybody’s catches to determine how they are valued on this team. It’s everything they bring and he’s a great example of that.
(On how important it was keeping him after the move this last off-season) He’s extremely important to us and he’s a done a fantastic job. He might not at the end of the year have the numbers of the other tight ends but that doesn’t mean he isn’t extraordinarily important to us. He really is. We’re lucky to have him.
(On becoming a ticket benefactor for people who are active in the community) We’re really excited about an opportunity. We want to present this to people who follow us, the 12s. About competing to find someone who’s done something really good that they’ve witnessed and turn in the news to us and we’ll make a selection each week. We’ll then send out a couple tickets so someone can come to a Seahawks game. In hopes there will be a lot of people that apply. We’ll only be able to pick out one because we won’t be able to reward everyone but we really regard acts of kindness highly. We love to see that. It could be a family member, a co-worker, or someone you go to school with. We really just want to reward people for doing really cool things and being really thoughtful. Hopefully it will catch some momentum and people will have fun with this.
(On Andrew McDonald) Really we saw him, John and his guys were looking for a tackle and they looked through all the depth charts and rosters from the preseason really tirelessly to find a guy that we thought fit. We’re really excited about it, it was his first day on the practice field Monday and he did a nice job. He fits physically and bright guy. We’re really excited about the opportunity and you’ve seen us all through camp trying to figure out the depth of that spot and hopefully Andrew [McDonald] will come through for us. Again he’s off to a good start and his film looked really good. He’s played left and right which he played in practice Monday, he looked very comfortable on both sides. That flexibility is reliable to us.