Are they ready for some football?
It was a salient question Wednesday as the Seahawks returned to the practice field, three days removed from what cornerback Richard Sherman called a “pivotal moment for the league.”
The various protest gestures teams took last week in the wake of President Donald Trump’s escalation of the national anthem controversy suggested players were not unconditionally committed to the games at hand.
The front page of the New York Times Monday sports section – a photo montage of pregame sideline scenes throughout the league –captured the essence of the NFL’s strangest day since Nov. 24, 1963.
That was the afternoon commissioner Pete Rozelle determined the games would go on, 48 hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Pro athletes drained and distracted – playing football was the last thing they wanted to be doing – relied on instinct instead of emotion.
While the subplot last Sunday wasn’t as grave as the immediate aftermath of a president’s assassination, it posed, as center Justin Britt admitted, some “subliminal” issues.
“Emotionally, it definitely weights on you a little bit,” said wide receiver Doug Baldwin. “I think it weighed on a lot of people in the NFL, because pretty much every team responded in some fashion. I could see the importance of making sure of utilizing and spending our energy in the right way.”
Spending it, perhaps, on the Indianapolis Colts? They’ll visit CenturyLink Field on Sunday night for a game that figures to be more significant than the events preceding it.
“Last week was about making a statement,” said head coach Pete Carroll. “Moving forward, it’s about making a difference. The players will sense, and the coaches will sense, that we’d really like to focus on football.
“We did last week when we had issues to deal with. I think it’s be different this week. There’s nothing lost in the sincerity of the statements that were made, nothing lost in the willingness to make a difference. But it’s really important for all of us to make sure the games that we play will be played the best they possibly can be played.”
Although Carroll trusts the Hawks ability to prepare for Sunday night in a business-as-usual mode, the team has been known to be volatile during quietest of news cycles.
It’s not quiet anymore – something tells me it won’t be quiet for at least three years – and Sherman acknowledged there’s no road map about how to go forward.
“That’s a great question,” Sherman answered when asked if the Hawks are planning another demonstration of dissent on Sunday. “It’s still being discussed.
“Last week,” he continued, “ was a pivotal moment for the league in general to stand and show togetherness, to show everyone we will not be bullied by the president of the United States and his words. We will not be divided by his words.”
For a team that’s imbalanced – the defense typically the rescues the offense, despite evidence to the contrary during the second half of last Sunday’s 33-27 defeat at Tennessee – any sense that words have unified the Seahawks bodes well.
“Everyone was on the same page,” said Oday Aboushi, newly installed as first-team right guard on the depth chart. “Everyone came together for the bigger, common goal, which is equality and justice for all. The young guys in the locker room have opinions, the older guys have opinions, the middle guys, too. For all of us to come together and decide on what we were going to do, that’s what we were trying to get going.”
Is there a chance of normalcy in the forecast for Sunday? For a game where what happens on the field is more consequential than anything that happens, or doesn’t happen, on the sideline?
“I don’t know,” Aboushi said. “It’s only Wednesday.”
United they stand, or sit behind closed doors, or conjure up some combination thereof.
The game plan remained vague. It was only Wednesday.