Receiver Doug Baldwin called a recent ESPN story about team friction “a story about nothing,” then acknowledged that it’s really something. In other words, whatever friction exists is the normal result of group interaction and ultimately is transformed into positive energy.
No, Doug Baldwin wasn’t critiquing “Seinfeld” when he said on Tuesday, “I think it’s a story about nothing.”
As you probably guessed, Baldwin was referencing the explosive ESPN article that detailed alleged disharmony in the Seahawks’ locker room. It has become a prime talking point now that the players are reunited for organized team activities.
Baldwin being Baldwin — i.e., one of the most thoughtful and perceptive players on the team — he eventually made it clear that “nothing” really was something. And that “something,” encompassing the complexities of the Seahawks’ collective persona (and management’s willingness to embrace their individuality all the way to the brink of chaos) is the secret sauce that makes them so unique — and so successful.
In other words, it’s not always kumbaya in those confines at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. But whatever friction exists, Baldwin says, is the normal result of group interaction and ultimately is transformed into positive energy. And the camaraderie and togetherness that emerges from that volatile process? They’re real, and they’re spectacular.
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“Do we have issues in our locker room? Do we have arguments and disagreements? Of course,” the seven-year veteran wide receiver said. “Every locker room does. What I think makes our locker room so great is that we are transparent. We are up front with each other. We do hold each other to a high standard of accountability.
“And yeah, sometimes from the outside, it doesn’t look healthy. But I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. (Coach) Pete (Carroll) and (general manager) John (Schneider) have done a great job of creating an environment where they cultivate this individuality, and they celebrate individuals. They allow us to be who we are, because ultimately that’s going to lead us to be the best we can be. In the bigger picture, that helps our team to be the best we can be.”
There is a school of thought, of course, that such a strategy is doomed to an ugly end, that players inevitably will abuse the freedom that Carroll gives them. Certainly, the Seahawks have tested that theorem, and, if you believe the article (and other evidences of dissension), are on the verge of crashing.
Yet Baldwin says that’s exactly what makes the Seahawks such a wonder to behold. With all those strong personalities co-existing — “a whole bunch of alpha males, who all they want to do is dominate their position,’’ in his words — they still know the precise point to reel it all back in.
“It’s a fine line,” Baldwin said. “It’s a very fine line. Again, to Pete and John’s credit, they’ve created an environment that cultivates that, that pushes you to that line. But once we touch it, we always come back. We always come back to center. And we always refocus.”
One can only assume that such a moment of reckoning has occurred after the volatility of 2016, followed by an offseason of even more turmoil. But despite all the happy talk now, the answer won’t be revealed in voluntary OTAs, nor in the minicamp that follows, or even the exhibition season that commences in August.
The fabric of this team, and its ability to hold together, won’t be truly tested until they delve into the brutality and tension of the regular season. Baldwin feels confident they will not only hold together but thrive.
“At the end of the day, we all know what we’re fighting for,” he said. “And we can always get back together and head in that direction. Yes, it is a fine balance, but I think we’ve done a masterful job, Pete and John and the players in our locker room have done a masterful job, of making sure it doesn’t spill overboard.”
Of course, it is Baldwin’s longtime teammate at both Stanford and in Seattle, cornerback Richard Sherman, who has been at the heart of the discourse, and discord. Sherman is the one who had two sideline tirades last year, who was involved in a long offseason melodrama involving possible trade talks, and who was singled out in the ESPN article as being in the center of the locker-room dissension.
Asked about any differences in Sherman during these OTAs after enduring all that turmoil, Baldwin joked, “He’s just old. He’s losing some hair, getting some gray hairs. That’s about it.”
But Sherman’s state of mind is a serious matter for the Seahawks. They need him to move past whatever simmering grievances he might have been clinging to — and Baldwin indicated he’s not worried about that in the slightest.
“He’s still the fantastic teammate he’s always been, and obviously the outstanding player on the football field,” he said. “There’s really nothing different. When all this stuff came out, I know you guys thought maybe there’d be some internal issues with it. But really, it passed over like it was nothing. We understand in the locker room, there’s always going to be things coming out. We understand we each have each other’s back in that locker room. So it really wasn’t even a discussion.”
So there you have it — a story about nothing. But like Seinfeld, it’s a story that’s still captivating in all its mundane glory, because of the truths it reveals. Or, in this case, that we think it reveals.
“It’s as accurate or inaccurate as you want to make it,” Baldwin said.