John McGrath

John McGrath: Showboating Seahawks need to get their groove back

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25), who broke up a pass Sunday intended for Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82), has yet to make an interception this year. And for him that must be ... humbling.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25), who broke up a pass Sunday intended for Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82), has yet to make an interception this year. And for him that must be ... humbling. Star-Telegram

Halfway through the 2015 season, the question is gnawing at me.

Where did the Seattle Seahawks go?

I don’t mean the franchise. The franchise will remain intact in Seattle for as long as little kids are legally permitted to become football players when they grow up.

I mean the guys who talked tough and copped an edgy attitude, reveling in their reputation as the cockiest NFL champions since Mike Ditka’s 1985 Bears recorded the “Super Bowl Shuffle” two months before, like, the actual Super Bowl. What happened to those Seahawks?

Most Americans outside the Pacific Northwest had no love for the Hawks’ act, and the Hawks didn’t care. The more critics chided them, the louder they got.

As Washington Post sports columnist Norman Chad wrote in 2014: “Nobody on the Seahawks just makes a play and goes back to the huddle. They are a chirping, preening lot of look-at-me-I’m-the-baddest-man-on-the-planet showboaters.”

Baddest-men-on-the-planet showboaters.

The depiction was intended as an insult, but given a hum-drum 4-4 record that includes three victories over teams whose quarterback either was a backup or no longer starts, the insult now gives me a nostalgic yearning for bad men who showboat.

Last Thanksgiving, cornerback Richard Sherman was seen on TV devouring a turkey leg at a table set up on the San Francisco 49ers’ midfield logo. No matter that he shared the turkey with quarterback Russell Wilson — among the few Seahawks whose mouth has never roared — or that the table was installed by NBC for a postgame interview.

Sherman symbolized a kind of confidence the rest of the world perceived to be arrogance and, in any case, he appeared to savor a victory snack served on the 49ers logo.

Sherman burst into the league as an All-Pro talent whose trash-talk feuds with Darrelle Revis, Michael Crabtree and Tom (“U Mad Bro?”) Brady obscured his penchant for picking off passes. This season has found Sherman circumspect off the field and quiet on it, and I wonder if that correlates with the gradual defanging of the secondary in general.

The 2013 Seahawks intercepted 28 regular-season passes en route to their Super Bowl demolition of the Denver Broncos. Through eight games, the 2015 Hawks have three interceptions — two by free safety Earl Thomas, one by strong safety Kam Chancellor, none by Sherman.

Teams change annually in a league where rosters are constructed with salary-cap restrictions, and while the core on both sides of the scrimmage line has remained intact, some role players who gave the Seahawks their personality are missing.

Gone, for instance, is wide receiver Golden Tate, so bold he once gave a “see ya, suckas” wave to the St. Louis Rams defense while sauntering into the end zone. Impolite? No doubt. Obnoxious? Pretty much.

And yet Tate’s taunting gesture described a Seahawks team that didn’t just want to beat its opponents, it wanted to kick dirt on them.

Players move on, as do the men employed to inspire them. Former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is head coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Fiery linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., who could turn a monks’ supper at a monastery into a food fight, accepted an offer from the Oakland Raiders to serve as their defensive coordinator.

The wheels aren’t off. The second half of the schedule begins with three home games, and don’t forget: The 2014, Seahawks, who were 3-3 and appeared to be going nowhere, ended up in the Super Bowl.

Pete Carroll is as skilled as any head coach who has prowled a sideline. His most obvious skill is persuading players — and teams, whether at the college level or pro — to reinvent themselves.

But the Seahawks don’t need reinvention. What the Seahawks need is rediscovery.

Rediscover the belief that no opponent arrives at CenturyLink Field with any expectation more ambitious than to survive alive. Rediscover the sense that virtually nobody on the East Coast, or in the South or Midwest or Southwest or California, roots for the Seahawks.

Most important of all, rediscover the swaggering showboating strut associated with the baddest men on the planet.

Hawks’ Lockette leaves hospital

As soon as he got out of the hospital, Ricardo Lockette was already focused on his future.

The Seahawks’ wide receiver and special-teams ace tweeted Thursday that he’d been released from Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. That was four days after a scary hit and even scarier scene of him lying unconscious in the middle of the Cowboys’ field. Monday he had had neck surgery that took more than five hours to repair disc and ligament damage.

Lockette was unconscious on the field for multiple minutes Sunday in Seattle’s, 13-12, win in Arlington, Texas, after a hit high under the chin by Dallas safety Jeff Heath during a punt.

“Thanks for all the support,” Lockette posted on his Instagram account Thursday afternoon. “I’ve just been released from the hospital and the road to recovery has started!!! God did it #seahawks #rockette”

Coach Pete Carroll had estimated Monday based on what the team knew from doctors at the time that Lockette was likely to spend the rest of this week at the hospital for what Carroll emphasized was a “serious” operation. Lockette had been up and around since Tuesday and responded well enough to spend the remainder of this Seahawks’ bye week through Sunday with his family. The native of Georgia had his father, Earl, and family at his side since the Seahawk arrived at the Dallas hospital Sunday; his family attended the game.

Carroll has already said Lockette will miss the remainder of this season. It remains unknown whether the 29-year-old will be able to play football beyond that — though Lockette’s writing Thursday was promising.

Heath was penalized on the second-quarter play for what referee Carl Cheffers announced as a “blindside hit,” though it was from the front. Lockette was motionless on the field for many minutes while teammates Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson joined Carroll, team doctors and local emergency personnel at his side. He was strapped to a stretcher with his helmet still on then wheeled off the field to the hospital.

Many Seahawks felt the hit was at the very least unnecessary, perhaps dirty. Defensive end Michael Bennett called it “classless, from everybody down” from Dallas coach Jason Garrett.

The NFL could, per conduct rules, fine Heath more than $23,152 if it deems the hit was from the blind side, was impermissible use of the helmet or illegal launching, or was a hit on a defenseless player. Carroll said it appeared to be a type of hit worthy of a fine.

The Cowboys’ website reported Heath reached out to Lockette while he was in the hospital.

“I texted him, I haven’t received a response,” Heath told dallascowboys.com. “I just told him that I have a lot of respect for how he plays. He’s really tenacious and aggressive. I really like how he plays. I just wish him a speedy recovery. I think he knows, but I just told him my intention wasn’t to hurt him. I hated the outcome of the play. I just wished him a speedy recovery.”

The Cowboys’ site reported Heath did not apologize for the scary blow.

“I’m not going to apologize for playing hard. I’m not going to apologize for the hit,” Heath told dallascowboys.com. “I don’t like the outcome of the hit, but that’s my job. The second that you start having that little voice in the back of your head telling you, ‘remember what happened last time …’ or whatever, it’ll slow you down and you’re not going to be able to do your job.”

gregg.bell@thenewstribune.com

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