Posted November 27, 2013

After yet another suspension, the Seahawks may be their own worst enemy

Seattle Seahawks
Pete Carroll has tried to stem the tide, but the Seahawks are taking on water. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Lengthy drug suspensions continue to pile up for Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. — There are people who simply don’t know how to deal with success at its ultimate height. On Jan. 21, 1989, running back Stanley Wilson of the Cincinnati Bengals was found to be doing cocaine the night before Super Bowl XXIII, which his team lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 20-16. And on Jan, 30, 1999, the day before his Atlanta Falcons were soundly beaten by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, safety Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex. It would seem for some that just as you’re approaching the best part of a lifetime dream, self-sabotage kicks in, and it all falls apart.

The Seattle Seahawks are dealing with this phenomenon for the second straight season. Down the stretch of their 2012 campaign, cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were suspended for violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Sherman’s was overturned on appeal, but Browner served four games, and Seattle’s secondary was affected. Now, the news over the last couple of days is that Browner will be suspended for an entire year as a repeat offender, and cornerback Walter Thurmond has joined him with a four-game suspension for his own league violations.

Browner’s suspension is a more complicated story. When he first came into the league in 2005, he failed a drug test while in the Denver Broncos’ employ. The Broncos released him in 2006. After that, according to a source familiar with the situation, Browner ran low on money and was sleeping on friends’ couches to stay solvent while he waited for another shot at pro football. His cel phone service lapsed, and he was automatically placed in Stage 3 of the program because he missed multiple notifications for drug tests. Browner played with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League from 2006 through 2010, and maintained his Stage 3 status when he returned to the NFL with the Seahawks in 2011. Browner passed multiple tests per week from 2011 through 2013 without a hitch, but failed another non-PED test recently, and that tripped the year-long suspension. Had he not missed those notifications years ago, he would face a few missed game checks at best, and a four-game suspension at worst. According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, Browner’s appeal concluded Wednesday.

“Over the break, there were some issues that came up that we’ve dealt with,” head coach Pete Carroll said of the suspensions on Tuesday, following the team’s first practice after the recent bye week. “We feel very disappointed that they won’t be able to play with us, but this is how it goes at times. Over the years, I’ve always wanted to find who maybe needed some considerations or some special opportunities to do what they can do. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out. We’ll always look to give guys a second chance around here, and the fact that the league has adjusted the rules allows those guys who have been suspended to be around us, and we’re going to take care of them and bring them along until we get them back.”

Carroll doesn’t always come off as an indulgent father, as former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren tended to do at times, but he does talk about “his kids.” and there may be a breaking point in Carroll that doesn’t allow him to separate the players from the people at times. Browner, who will be a free agent in 2014, has very likely played his last football in Seattle. Thurmond, who started to take over for Browner as Browner’s play declined in 2013, is a more complicated proposition. He was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft — Carroll’s first year in Seattle after a decade at USC — and he’s overcome injuries at the collegiate and professional levels to play at a high level this season. Browner has used up his chances, and it may be that Thurmond — who is also a free agent when the next league year kicks in — presents an irresistible combination of potential and development that Carroll will nurture to a degree that may seem illogical to some.

Though his team has been phenomenally successful on the field since he took it over, Carroll must see a need to reflect on the culture he has created and continues to reinforce. The Browner and Thurmond suspensions are the seventh and eighth for the team in the last three seasons (the NFL high, so to speak), and as much as Carroll’s mantra is “Always Compete,” this is the kind of NFL mark one would rather not set.

“I think we’re constantly reinforcing the behavior, the mindset, and the mentality that we want,” he said when asked about that culture. “It’s hard to do what we do; it’s hard to expect everybody to be exactly on point. You’re going to be disappointed if that’s what you think is going to happen. It’s more about how to be able to adjust and move with it and make most of the situation and overcome it. I would love to say that we haven’t had any issues and we clean it all up and there will be nothing there, but that may not be the case even as we move ahead. We’re going to keep working for it and we’re going to keep expecting to be as perfect as we can get to be.”

But just as Joe Philbin was seen by many to be an ineffective substitute teacher when the Miami Dolphins bullying stories broke, Carroll is now batting with a two-strike count in the game of public perception. There are those who will never stop associating him with the sanctions set against USC based on his time there, and though his players will tell you that their coach has this thing on lock, the reality is different.  Carroll has created a team that is incredibly fun to watch, extremely difficult to beat, and nearly impossible to trust. They have the NFL’s best record on the field, and quite possibly the NFL’s worst everywhere else.

And that’s not fair to the guys in the building who have run the straight and narrow, as receiver Golden Tate intimated.

“Everyone should realize where this team is,” Tate told ESPN Radio’s Seattle affiliate Tuesday morning. “You are affecting way more than yourself. I feel like that was kind of a selfish move on both those guys’ part. But it is what it is. The show must go on and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

The problem with Carroll’s media session on Tuesday is that he said a lot of the same things back in May, when it was announced that outside linebacker Bruce Irvin would start the 2013 season with his own four-game suspension, And the fact that you could superimpose many of the comments now over the comments then does leave one wondering if it isn’t time for a culture change. The message should be simple: When you’re on your way to a potential Super Bowl berth, try not to screw it up.

But when I asked him about a new way of doing things, Carroll seemed to believe that the way it’s gone is the way it’s going to go.

“We’ll always look to do it better, but we’re on it. This team is very strong about where we’re going and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to create. Because somebody slips that doesn’t mean that we’re not on track. I think we’re on tremendous track right now. The focus around here, the dedication of what we’re doing, the standard that we hold [the players] to in all areas has been exemplary in many, many areas, and we’re really proud of it. That doesn’t mean that somebody is not going to slip and make a mistake now and then.”

The difference between “now and then” and “quite frequently, and at the worst possible times” is something that Carroll will have to contend with in his own head. So far, it’s proven to be a more difficult opponent than just about any team the Seahawks have faced this season.

42 comments
yobogo
yobogo

Browner and Thurmond are idiots. But no one is cheating, I don't get where all this Seahawks and Carroll are cheaters is coming from. These guys are busted for substance abuse, non performance enhancing. If anything, they were playing worse if they were showing up high or hungover. Call them stupid all you want, but enough with all the sour grapes, and using cheating as the reason they are winning this year.

Pat11
Pat11

Nice! Agree with the guy below, cant stand to watch that teams arrogant players who are contantly jawing and taunting opposing players. Sure, it occurs on other teams but no other team are as bad as them, especially their Defensive backs.

JensenNSchimino
JensenNSchimino

Proof the Seahawks are the biggest cheaters in the league. Also the most arrogant team in the league. Karma's going to come back on them 10 fold.

Hendo
Hendo

Whatever it takes.

Starstruck
Starstruck

Memo to Tate: it can't be selfish when so many of your teammates are cheating until they are caught. It's all part of the ' always compete' way of Pete Carroll. 

Hobbes019
Hobbes019

Yeah, Seattle's secondary was affected last year.  Don't forget to mention that during the Browner suspension and Thurmond injury last year, the 'Hawks went 4-0 torching teams to conclude the regular season.

JustaGuy2
JustaGuy2

When will we see the article blaming Mike Shanahan for the five drug suspensions since Jan 01 2012?  How about the Jeff Fisher bashing for the four drug suspensions since Jan 01 2012?  I guess when a team sucks it is okay to sweep problems under the rug, but when it happens to a good team it is considered "news".   

fmfrijoles
fmfrijoles

In less than 1 year ...3 players in the secondary have been investigated regarding issues......

It really does reinforce the idea that Carroll was crooked in college....and now crooked in Seattle.

nortran11
nortran11

God you guys crack me up. Do you honestly think Coach Carroll is the only guy in football history to cheat? You are going to tell me that Chip Kelly and the neon wearing idiots of Oregon ran a squeaky clean program? How much money did the Patriots have to pay for spygate? How many coaches on the Saints staff sat out last year for offering bounties for injuring opposing players? Get a grip on reality. The bottom line...those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. These players are adults, there is no coach in the NFL that can control what these guys do after they leave the training facility. Coach Carroll can't follow them home and tuck them into bed and say "OK Brandon...now be a good boy and don't smoke that mary jane now".

Jeff_Scott
Jeff_Scott

More doping news yet to come from the seahacks.

George
George

This week the sea-hens will be exPOSED by Drew and his crew.

Take it to the bank.

Yorky
Yorky

Pete Carroll is a rah-rah college coach that cannot control his team. He dismantled the Patriots in the 90's and Belichick had to restore order. You're headed for a dive Seattle.

BbchAt-Fifty
BbchAt-Fifty

I guess Belichick gets a pass because it was only a murder.

JPG
JPG

Mr. Farrar-what exactly do you want Coach Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks try to do at this point?  They've signed Perrish Cox to as a back up to Walter Thurmond and are currently trying to sign Antione Winfield.  The even had Marcus Trufant come in and try out.  The organization told Mr. Thurmond not to appeal, which he did, and take his medicine, pardon the pun.

Both Mr. Thurmond and Mr. Browner will have their contracts expire with the team at the end of this season and llkely will never wear a Seahawks uniform again.

Three teammates (Max Unger, Richard Sherman and Golden Tate) have already spoken out against this behavior, addressed it in their locker and by all accounts looks like the team is ready to move on.

Unlike the 49ers whom still have a two DUI loser (Aldon Smith) whom is also facing gun charges playing on their team the Seahawks.

sporra01
sporra01

ehhh...browner was playing like crap anyway. Back to the CFL son!

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

"Unsavory" and Pete Carroll, go together like bread and butter.

BufordTJustice
BufordTJustice

It never ceases to amaze just how far sportswriters will go in hyperbole; talking of 8 suspensions and the Seahawks having the best record on the field and the worst possibly everywhere else. Apparently, it's much too much to ask for Farrar to actually look up the details when the number "8" is so juicy. 2 players were caught BEFORE joining the team and served their suspensions with the Seahawks. 1 player had a legal prescription for Adderall which wasn't properly disclosed to the league. Sherman's test result was vacated because the test was tainted (as in any tainted sample case, it is treated as if the test never happened...except in the "dog with a bone" media, apparently). I guess the days are gone where more was expected from reporters than offering up red meat to a teams haters.

SFWildcard
SFWildcard

homer, smoking weeds or any other drugs make you tolerate pain , which is another way of cheating

mksusan7
mksusan7

@JensenNSchimino Please, a few players failing a drug test does not make a whole team cheaters. There are arrogant players on every team. You highly exaggerate by lumping the whole team together. Your so called "proof" is only your flawed  opinion not fact.

JustaGuy2
JustaGuy2

If you throw in 2011, Mike Shanahan looks to be responsible for another two drug suspensions... WHERE IS THAT ARTICLE?

JustaGuy2
JustaGuy2

@nortran11 ... I am so amused by everyone's ignorance... How does Reggie Bush's parents being given a house over 100 miles away from USC by a couple of guys that were promised to be Reggie's agents BY HIS PARENTS equate to Pete Carroll cheating?  I'm sure you guys all know EXACTLY what the parents of your friends are doing at all times...

Mech
Mech

@George Ha,,,, better get that ticket to anon e muss City because you are gonna look like a fool after monday night when the hawks strip and pose drew in the middle of the field.

JustaGuy2
JustaGuy2

@George... Break out your old paper bag George, you're gonna need it.

jshawaii22
jshawaii22

@Yorky    ... that 'rah-rah' coach took over a team that sucked.  Period!  We sucked.  Now we don't suck and it was Pete and John Schneider that turned it around.   "you're headed for the a dive".... not until we reach the top a few times.    Russell Wilson is just getting started...


js

JPG
JPG

@Yorky Pete Carroll has never been fined $500,000 like Mr. Belichick was over 'Sypgate' and the Patriots organization another quarter million. 

thegbinsider
thegbinsider

@JPG You sounded smart until you used the word 'loser' to describe someone who sought out help (and still is) with a serious problem after he got a DUI. He wasn't suspended, or forced into doing anything. The ironic part about your last statement is that Marshawn Lynch still has a trial pending for his DUI arrest. Somehow that slips the minds of many Seahawks fans such as yourself. (Also, Smith is facing gun charges for failing to register and modify weapons that he purchased legally in Arizona.)

Your argument for the Seahawks doing everything right comes with the assumptions that a) they couldn't have foreseen these issues arising,  and b) they shouldn't have been proactive. If Carroll is going to continue to "always look to give guys a second chance", he has to be held accountable when it doesn't work out. 

With the suspensions and incidents they've had, saying that Carroll had no idea about these guys is either just not true, or an example of a leader being negligent. 

Kazootie
Kazootie

@BufordTJustice And this whole discussion says nothing about the heavy opiate use and abuse in the NFL.  Thought by most hc and addiction professionals to be much worse than simple marijuana use (which we here in washington finally legalized)

yobogo
yobogo

LOL, you're right, weed is a PED

JustaGuy2
JustaGuy2

Oops... Shanahan had THREE more drug suspensions in 2011.

Pat11
Pat11

@JustaGuy2 @nortran11 Whether they are the first to cheat or not is not the issue. The issue is they cheated, got caught, now do the time. Its like the Nascar saying "If you aint cheating your not trying", Just because others are dishonest and unsportsmanlike should never persuade someone to compromise their integrity. I;m gonna try getting down from this high horse now.

George
George

@Mech @George or YOU will be going home in a barrel early Tuesday a.m.  ...  exPOSED I tell ya'!

JPG
JPG

@thegbinsider @JPG Never said that the Seahawks are "doing everything right".  You did.  They're doing what they can at the present.  Also, never said Carroll had no idea "about these guys".  You did.  I don't know, and frankly, neither do you.

Regarding Mr. Smith, two DUIs in two years.  A DUI auto related accident.  Possession of marijuana charges that were later dropped.  Three counts of felony assualt weapons charges.  Being named in a civil suit for firing numerous shots with an illegal assualt weapon at a party.  And still playing for the team.  Priceless.

Kazootie
Kazootie

Of course rules are rules and a player needs to be responsible to his teams goals ahead of his own sensibilities and desires.

Golden Tate is not the one to throw stones however (stolen maple bar, taunting penalties)

Separately, there seems to be a sentiment by other fans and sportswriters to try to demonize the Seahawks right now.  They seem to be picking at nits as they are miffed at some seahawks success.  Fer god's sake, we haven't won a championship since 1978.  Ease up.

Lastly, i am more concerned with Carroll's late game time management skills that player and rules skills.



Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

@thegbinsider @mike202 @JPG Those comments may be true, but all I'm really reading is that you're willing to accept things that support Smith, but are doing the opposite for the Seahawks.  None of us have all the facts....

thegbinsider
thegbinsider

@mike202 @JPG  As I said above, he voluntarily left the team and went to rehab. Many people don't want to accept it, but alcoholism is a disease. He missed more time on a voluntary absence than any Seahawks play has missed on a mandatory suspension. 

He had a party and gang members found their way in. The crowd was getting out of control, and Smith fired off warning shots to get people to leave. It's not legal. but he didn't shoot anyway, and saying he caused someone else to be shot is incorrect. 

mike202
mike202

@JPG @thegbinsider Don't forget shooting off his weapons at a party at his home, precipitating a gun battle in his driveway where two people were shot.  Then, because he wasn't having enough fun already, getting in a knife fight where he was stabbed.

A DUI where he passed out, hit a tree and was found by the Police with his foot still on the gas and the rear tires spinning.  All this at 7 AM on his way to practice.

Who would you rather have live next door to you, all the Seahawks that were suspended or Aldon Smith?