RENTON Nothing sends the intended message to younger Seahawks about what veterans feel is required competitiveness better than the new guys seeing $46 million wide receiver Doug Baldwin trading blows and helmet grabs after a play with three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
That happened in practice on Monday.
Though overshadowed by Pro Bowl defensive end’s series of fights with offensive lineman this month, the Baldwin-Sherman scrap during a seven-on-seven passing drill was a mash-up with the highest-profile combatants of this Seahawks’ year. Or of any recent year.
It came immediately after Baldwin had gone past Sherman and three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas for a long touchdown catch on a go-route down the numbers. Russell Wilson’s pass met Baldwin, last season’s NFL co-leader in TD receptions, in stride.
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And then it was on. As in, Stanford on Stanford.
Sherman stomped across the line of scrimmage into the mass of offensive players behind that unit’s huddle. He went after Baldwin. Sherman’s arms flailed at the receiver’s helmeted head, his facemask and his shoulder-padded chest. Then they continued to yell at each other as coaches eventually separated them.
“No, it wasn’t orchestrated,” Baldwin told me (given it was Baldwin and Sherman, I had to ask) following Tuesday’s practice. It was the last one in full pads before Thursday’s third preseason game, against Dallas at CenturyLink Field.
“Obviously, tempers flare. Sherm’s really upset that we keep destroying him in practice. He’s upset that the receivers are getting the best out of him and the defensive backs this year. So he takes offense to that.”
Baldwin practiced Tuesday with a dark bruise on the center of his forehead and what appeared to be about four or so stitches off the side of the bridge of his nose, towards the upper inside of his left-eye socket.
“My helmet came down – you can see the bruise up here – came down on my head,” Baldwin said, pointing at the bang.
“Football stuff,” is all the more he said about it.
Asked if he’s fought with Sherman on the field before, back to when they both played for Stanford through the 2010 college season and before they both became Seahawks in 2011, Baldwin laughed.
“Oh, of course! I’ve known him for 10 years,” Baldwin said. “Nothing new.”
On Monday, Bennett mentioned a “code” among players that states one should not cross a line of physicality in practices that may endanger a teammate’s health, or as Bennett put it, livelihood.
On Tuesday, in pure offense-versus-defense rivalry fashion, Baldwin rolled his eyes at that.
“I mean, yes, there is a ‘code.’ But Mike B. doesn’t always necessarily operate by that code, either,” Baldwin said.
“It hard to take him serious when he talks about other guys taking food off his kids’ plate – when he is driving around here with 10 different cars, you know?
“It’s all relative. You take it with a grain of salt.”
Baldwin said he isn’t concerned with the fighting in practices this month. Then he admitted to a good reason why.
“Not concerned with it, as long as it doesn’t spill over into our play on Sunday – or, Thursday, this week, I guess you should say,” Baldwin said. “But we always like that level of chippiness because it brings out the true level of competitiveness in all of us.
“I’ll admit it: I’m kind of an agitator in that, at times. But it’s because we need it. We don’t like it just to be peas and carrots all the time in practice. We want to bring out that competitive nature. We want to see the dog in guys so we can bring out the best in their abilities.
“So, yeah, not too concerned about it. We’ll probably taper it down here a little bit as we get closer to the season, to make sure we are all healthy and focused on the task at hand.”
Asked if this roster needed him to be that “agitator,” needed more fighting, than previous Seahawks teams, Baldwin said, “No.”
Then he gave reason why this year’s team might.
"Since we have a lot of young guys in here, we have to set the tone for them," he said. "Let them know how we operate, the competitive nature of how we go about our business. You know, let them know they have to fight every day they are out here. Let them know they have to fight for playing time, for a rep, for a spot on this roster."