Seattle Seahawks

Michael Bennett joins Richard Sherman in saying Pete Carroll's Seahawks message got stale

The Seahawks have parted with former mainstays Michael Bennett, left, and Richard Sherman this offseason. Coach Pete Carroll said Monday: "The best thing I can tell you is, that they’re not here."
The Seahawks have parted with former mainstays Michael Bennett, left, and Richard Sherman this offseason. Coach Pete Carroll said Monday: "The best thing I can tell you is, that they’re not here." AP

Word is, some veteran players think Pete Carroll's ways with the Seahawks have gotten stale.

The sources? The two big stars the team just got rid of.

Michael Bennett, the Pro Bowl defensive end the Seahawks traded to Philadelphia last month, told Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop "he read books during team meetings last year because he’d heard Carroll say the same thing over and over for seven years."

Bishop, who has Seattle roots, related that to KIRO-AM radio on Tuesday.

Bishop's description of what Bennett told him jibes with what Sherman said after the Seahawks waived him in March, and over the past year.

It sheds light on what may be other, inside-the-locker-room reasons why two cornerstones of the Seahawks' most successful era ever are gone. Reasons besides the team's salary-cap savings of $2.2 million for Bennett this year and $11 million for Sherman.

Carroll rebuilt a college football champion at USC with his unique ways before arriving to lead the Seahawks in 2010. In mid-March, days after the three-time All-Pro cornerback left Seattle following seven hugely successfuly years, Sherman said on the Uninterrupted podcast "The Tomahawk Show": "A lot of us have been there six, seven, eight years, and his philosophy is more built for college. Four years. Guys rotate in, rotate out.

"And so we had kind of heard all his stories. We had kind of heard every story, every funny anecdote that he had. And, honestly, because he just recycles them.

"And they're cool stories," Sherman said. "They're great for team chemistry and building, etcetera, etcetera. But we had literally heard them all. We could recite them before he even started to say them."

Carroll's reaction to that to reporters at last month's NFL owners' meetings in Florida: "So what else is new?"

"Sherm has been saying stuff his whole career, so this is nothing different," Carroll told reporters in late March in Orlando. "I've been through so much of what he has said, I take it all with a grain of salt. He's just battling. He's just trying to figure it out."

In December 2016 Sherman berated Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell over calling a pass play from the 1-yard line in a win over the Los Angeles Rams. Sherman then talked dismissively about a team meeting Carroll called after that Rams incident.

Sherman described the meeting as yet another “Kumbaya” one by his sunny coach.

"It was good. We just talked about the mood of the team and guys coming together,” Sherman said in December 2016. "We have a Kumbaya meeting just about every year. So it was just the same thing. We don’t sing the song. But we just sit Indian style; Kumbaya."

"We've already seen how that goes"

So this sense of stale has been with Sherman for at least two-plus years.

Carroll, 66 and the NFL's oldest coach (by seven months over New England's Bill Belichick), has two years remaining on his Seahawks contract. He has been aware the shelf lives of his message and ways could fade with his older, accomplished veterans. He has acknowledged during these last few seasons it's an ongoing challenge to keep his message fresh and therefore effective.

Of course, winning almost always solves and soothes everything. That's a concurrent factor here.

Carroll's ways were by all accounts cool and chic while Sherman, Bennett and the Seahawks were going to consecutive Super Bowls in the 2013 and '14 seasons.

Judging by what Bennett and Sherman have said, at least, those methods and messages were stale in 2017—during what became the Seahawks' first non-playoff season in six years.

The coach has used unusual ways and surprises galore to keep his approach engaging for players over his eight years leading the franchise. He's held free-throw shooting contests before meetings and blared music during practices since he got here. Carroll also has continued to bring in surprise guests to talk to his players. The Seahawks reveled in a visit by rap star and Pulitzer Prize-winner Kendrick Lamar at a practice last year. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and host of television’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, broke down the players in their post-practice huddle in the middle of the field in training camp in 2016—while telling the Seahawks about the universe.

And there was last season's zany, Techno Thursday movement tight end Luke Willson championed and Carroll supported.

In 2015 Carroll spiced up the Saturday-night motivational video he shows players at their hotel on the eve of each game by showing each Seahawk's college highlights before a game at Minnesota. The next day they smacked the host Vikings 38-7.

“You have to get your players to respond. You have to keep them motivated,” three-time All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said in the locker room in Minneapolis after that blowout win and the new motivational video the previous night.

“I’ve been in this system for (then) six years. Some of the philosophy gets boring. But when it comes to games and what he brings to the table, it’s always interesting.”

Apparently not always interesting, at least not for everyone. Even Thomas was saying "some of the philosophy gets boring" 2 1/2 years ago.

Well, guess what: Thomas' future with the Seahawks after eight years in Seattle is in some doubt, too.

He is entering the final year of his contract. He has threatened to hold out into the 2018 season if he doesn't get a new deal to his liking, at or near the highest-paid safety in the game. The Seahawks have as of a few weeks ago stopped negotiating with his agents on a new contract, general manager John Schneider said at the owners' meetings. The team has listened to trade offers for Thomas, particularly from his home-state Dallas Cowboys. This week, Thomas did not show up for the start of Seattle's voluntary offseason conditioning program at team headquarters.

The Seahawks have been in out-with-the-old mode this offseason: 12 one-time starters have departed or were allowed to become free agents, and Carroll changed his top four assistant coaches. That could be one way to keep Carroll's message from getting stale. After all, the coach's ways will be fresh to fresh players.

Carroll has said he constantly seeks news ways to coach, lead and motivate. So, yes, he recognizes the need to change and the potential for his ways to become stale to players who have been here a while.

At the NFL scouting combine in March, Carroll was asked how important in this offseason of turnover it is to maintain the identity he's built within his Seahawks.

His answer showed he realizes he must continue to adapt.

"We are not going to change the approach we have to the game, in general," Carroll said. "But I think we can see things differently and see things uniquely for us, and hopefully that will give us some opportunities for us that hopefully we see things come out a little bit different. I've never wanted to stay the same. I've never felt like that. I've felt that every year is a dynamic opportunity to do things in a new way, a better way. And I've always approached every aspect of all the things that we are doing in that thought.

"So this, maybe, seems like it's more extreme, because there have been changes that haven't happened in the past. But every year is loaded with changes, and we are forced to adapt and see if we are getting better and if we are not. And that being in hand, maybe not as obviously right now, is really exciting. And I'm fired up about it."

Any veteran not so fired up about it may not be around.

Just look at Bennett and Sherman.

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