Bennett called a recent ESPN article about team dissension a gift. “People want to be a part of a story, build up a controversy, and so now we have a story, so thank you,” he said. “We have something to build upon. You already started our narrative. That’s good for us.”
One after another they took the podium, the highest-profile, most outspoken and most influential players on the Seahawks, to quell the talk of dissension tearing apart the Seattle locker room.
It was a veritable kumbaya singalong, and they didn’t even need coach Pete Carroll to conduct.
But amid the condemnation of unnamed sources and reaffirmation of fidelity that marked organized team activities and minicamp — the final bridge to the official launch of the 2017 season — it was defensive lineman Michael Bennett who summed it up best (as is so often the case).
This was a gift, Bennett said, after opining that a recent ESPN article instigating the angst in Seattle was a result of what he called a “media drought” — the dreaded period with no actual football to generate story lines.
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“People want to be a part of a story, build up a controversy, and so now we have a story, so thank you,” he said. “We have something to build upon. You already started our narrative. That’s good for us. We already know where our story starts, and we have to define the ending of our story.”
Bennett knows this topic isn’t going away, no matter how much Carroll might like it to. But he also recognizes the Seahawks can actually use all this to fuel their latest drive to get back to the Super Bowl. Teams are always hungering to “prove everyone wrong,” right? What better way to show that strife and discord aren’t ruining the Seahawks than to reply with a title?
That’s a long way off, of course. But the first salvo couldn’t have gone much better. Everyone was watching to see if cornerback Richard Sherman was going to present himself in the same defiant manner he did after his sideline tirade (blowup No. 2) during a division-clinching win over the Rams in December. Given an opportunity to apologize and defuse the incident back then, Sherman instead wound up escalating it.
But this time, after an offseason as the centerpiece of the dissension talk, with trade rumors thrown in, Sherman did a nearly flawless job of deflecting and defusing. He professed love for all his teammates, including quarterback Russell Wilson, declared his desire to remain a Seahawk for life and made a convincing case that whatever tension exists in Seattle is not only normal but ultimately beneficial.
“He (ESPN writer Seth Wickersham) could have easily made a story about how a great team has a great competitive environment, competitive locker room and an iron-sharpens-iron mentality from offense to defense. That would have been fantastic; it would have been a fantastic story,’’ Sherman said.
“He could have made the story about ‘Wow, their offense and defense really go at it every day and really push themselves to the limits.’ Really celebrated the competitiveness and appreciated how great the team is, how great the locker room has to be for guys to be able to be that competitive on the field and then come into the locker room and have a fantastic relationship. But he didn’t because he needed (online) clicks. He wanted to make it controversial.”
Player after foundational player, from receiver Doug Baldwin to strong safety Kam Chancellor, made essentially the same point, which is the crucially important first part of whatever reboot needs to take place. One can only imagine the turmoil that would have resulted if just one player had fanned the flames this week.
Yet it’s also naïve to think the story is buried for good. In June, all the players are far removed from the stresses of the regular season, and nearly healed from the bruises — physical and emotional — of the previous one. Let’s see what happens when adversity inevitably strikes during the everyday grind of an NFL season.
The roots of some of these issues are deep-seated, and while that doesn’t mean they can’t be worked through and managed, even maximized, it also means the possibility of renewed blowups always exists. So let’s see what happens during the swirl and glare of September through December, when a close loss, a poor game by Wilson, or a misfiring play at the goal line has the potential to roil the harmony.
The good news is that the Seahawks clearly understand all this, and seem determined to show such speculation is nonsense. In this case, defiance can be a healthy response. Surely, this will be the most scrutinized Seahawks season in recent memory, with more eyes on them than even after their Super Bowl loss.
That could make it volatile, or that could make it triumphant (or, in fact, both). As Bennett recognized, the Seahawks have it within their power to define the ending.