Pete Carroll might want to reconsider the long-term merits of his “Tell the Truth Mondays.”
They can have unforeseen repercussions.
Problems started this week when the Seahawks coach came clean about a “significant” knee injury that had plagued cornerback Richard Sherman during the second half of the season.
Since the Seahawks never felt compelled to share this information with the NFL on their regular injury reports, the team reportedly is on the verge of being penalized a draft pick — perhaps as high as a second-rounder.
The severity of the sanction would be in recognition of previous violations regarding contact in offseason practice sessions.
At best, this is a case of an inexcusable lack of oversight, but there’s still the stink of petty cheating about the whole thing. And there are a number of mysterious subplots that defy explanation.
Maybe this is the NFL’s version of what’s being called “post-truth America,” where the in-the-moment benefits of lying outweigh the eventual costs of being caught. You know, if you’re not caught cheating, your team isn’t trying hard enough.
Low-grade ethics aside, from a practical sense, the loss of a second-round draft pick is a huge factor to a team that recently has been inconsistent in the conscription of enough good young players capable of staying healthy.
The primary questions now are:
▪ 1. How could Sherman have (in Carroll’s words) suffered a “significant” and “legit” knee injury and still play nearly every defensive snap as he did? And …
▪ 2. Why tell everybody about it now?
Sherman never missed a game and never wore a visible brace during games. He was listed as getting occasional days off from practice as Seahawks veterans frequently do. So where was the significance?
First off, I’m not sure I’m buying this injury assessment. Carroll likened it to the knee injury suffered by quarterback Russell Wilson. But Wilson obviously limped and was protected by a sizable brace.
Why wasn’t Sherman’s knee protected to the same degree? And was his health endangered by trying to keep opponents unaware of his possible vulnerability in pass coverage?
Another question: If your Pro Bowl cornerback is dealing with a significant knee injury, why was he continually exposed to further injury in his role on the punt-return team?
Sherman’s duty as “jammer” on the punt-return team required him to try to nail opposing “gunners” at the line, and then sprint down the field with them to keep them off the returner. It’s about 40 yards of full-speed contact.
No way you risk a former All-Pro with a bum knee in that role.
So, why reveal it now?
If Carroll hadn’t brought it up on his radio show, no one would have ever questioned it.
Frankly, it sounded as if he were trying to use it to explain away Sherman’s dyspeptic nature in the latter part of the season, as if the injury heightened frustrations that bubbled over on the sidelines and during news conferences.
Was this an excuse for Sherman of Carroll’s own flawed design? Or, we may wonder, if in his exit interview with Carroll, Sherman may have pressed the coach to tell the public about the injury since some observers evaluated the cornerback’s play as somewhat below his peak.
Since Sherman never missed any playing time, it seems such an insignificant matter. And if there hadn’t been previous sanctions on the Seahawks, this might have gone away.
Injury reports are so subjective, and so frequently manipulated across the league. And inconsistently enforced: The Jets were fined $125,000 in 2008 (Brett Farve, arm), but the Colts were not fined last season (Andrew Luck, unreported cracked ribs).
But the injury report is governed by rule and protocol, and after 11 seasons in the NFL, Carroll either should have known about it or made sure somebody was in charge of doing it right.
Or maybe he simply thought the Seahawks could get away with it.
I found Carroll unconvincing with his excuses: “Honestly, I didn’t realize we hadn’t revealed it,” and “I’m feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that …”
USC’s football program was hit with NCAA sanctions for violations during Carroll’s tenure. Carroll denied knowledge of the violations, and it feels like ancient history now and irrelevant to the matter at hand.
Carroll has been at the root of the greatest string of success in Seahawks history. But is this one unsavory facet to the championship culture he’s developed?
So, should we be bothered how this looks around the league? How it affects the Seahawks’ image?
The common response I’ve heard is that these are the kind of headlines that cause so many people to resent the New England Patriots — an assertion the Pats wave off with a handful of Super Bowl rings.
Fact is, the stakes rise with every violation for the Seahawks.
And maybe this is the deferred payback for a series of uncorrected problems. Excessive contact in the name of laudable competition, or finding ways to excuse repeated disrespectful behavior rather than stopping it the first time.
This seems like a small mistake in the context of remarkable Seahawks success.
But it not only looks bad, it will hurt on the field. This team isn’t quite good enough anymore to give away high draft picks.