Seattle Seahawks

What’s behind Chris Carson’s huge rebound since fumbling issue?

Thursday was World Mental Health Day.

Chris Carson was taking care of his mind weeks ago.

The Seahawks’ lead running back lost four fumbles in the first three games of this season in September. Before game four, two weeks ago at the Arizona Cardinals, Carson sought the help of Dr. Michael Gervais. The noted psychologist is a Seahawks consultant, plus one to NBA players, Olympians, members of the military personnel and corporate leaders across the country.

Dr. Gervais has developed what he calls “clarity for the tools that allow people to thrive under pressure.” The Los Angeles-based Gervais is essentially the Seahawks’ mental-conditioning coach, though he doesn’t have an official title with nor is he considered an official employee of the team.

“Yeah, I talked to him right before the Arizona game,” Carson said Thursday. “He told me, ‘Just give me two things.’

“I gave him the two things. And he said, ‘Whatever you do out there, just think about those two things.’

“And that’s what I did. It really worked out, and it played a big part.”

Carson would not specify what those “two things” were.

“I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s my own little thing.”

The mental coaching from Gervais turned around Carson’s season and kick-started Seattle’s entire, previously sputtering offense.

Days after Gervais told him to think only about his “two things” during games, Carson romped for his first 100-yard rushing day of the season. He had 104 yards on 22 carries in Seattle’s dominating, 27-10 victory. Four days later, Carson gained 118 yards on 27 rushes and caught the winning touchdown pass from Russell Wilson in the Seahawks’ 30-29 rally past the defending NFC-champion Rams.

That’s 222 yards, two of Carson’s eight career 100-yard rushing games, a game-winning reception—and no fumbles—in a four-day span after his mental checkup and tips from Gervais.

That’s what sharpening his mental health means to Carson’s game, and thus his livelihood.

“I think it’s big. I think it’s probably one of the most important things,” he said. “It’s hard to go in-depth with it but having a lot of people just talk to you about it. Especially going through what I went through the first couple of weeks, that really played a big part in it.

“Keeping your mind right is a big part of how you play, so I feel like it’s very important.”

So does coach Pete Carroll.

Always seeking a cutting edge to compete and win, Carroll brought in Gervais from his vast network of resources in southern California. Carroll cultivated those connections from 2001-09 while leading the powerhouse program at USC and starting his philanthropic “A Better LA.” Carroll took over the Seahawks in January 2010.

Last Friday, a night after the Seahawks beat the Rams, Gervais and Carroll spoke at one of the psychologist’s “Finding Mastery Live” podcast presentations at The Riveter, an events center on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

“When you can’t connect with every person, you can’t really have the connected relationship that you would like to,” Carroll told the crowd while seated next to Gervais.

“You do the best you can be giving everything you have of yourself.”

Gervais told the Capitol Hill crowd, in part: “We all have these seeds. A seed of love. A seed of greed. A seed of jealousy. A seed of hope.

“And it’s how much time we spend watering those seeds, thinking about those seeds...those grow.”

Carson also needs a physical trainer for this weekend’s game at Cleveland.

Seattle’s 1,110-yard rusher last season was limited in practice Thursday by a shoulder issue. It was a new listing on the team’s practice-participation report.

Yet the fact he practiced fully Wednesday and spoke to the media in a press-conference setting Thursday indicated Carson will play Sunday against the Browns. The Seahawks usually do not let media members interview players who are injured and in jeopardy of not playing in that weekend’s game.

By Friday, he wasn’t even on the team’s official injury report for the game. So he’s playing.

Carson is a key for Seattle on Sunday. The Browns are 30th in the league allowing more than 5 yards per carry, and are 29th in the 32-team NFL in overall run defense, giving up 150.8 yards rushing per game. The San Francisco 49ers rampaged for 275 yards on the ground Monday night while smashing Cleveland 31-3. Even in the last game the Browns won, two weeks ago over the AFC North-leading Baltimore (which Seattle hosts next week), Cleveland allowed the Ravens to rush for 173 yards.

Carson said he spent the players’ three days off Carroll gave the Seahawks after the win over the Rams through Sunday in Atlanta.

“I just chilled for the most part. I let my body heal up and hung out with my dogs,” he said.

“My body feels back to normal. ... “I feel good, close to 100 percent. It’s still early in the week, so we have some time. But I feel pretty good.”

Thanks to the Seahawks’ mental-conditioning man, so does his mind.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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