You have to think most people were thinking it. Longtime Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible finally asked it.
At 68, Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL. He is in an age group more susceptible to COVID-19 than most of the population.
So on Monday afternoon, Raible threw it out there during a Zoom call Carroll had with reporters.
How has this affected you personally?
“I’m no different than anyone else. I know what the stats are,” Carroll said, adding he and his wife have been reading about the virus relentlessly so as to be best prepared to take it on. “I’m taking it as a personal challenge. If I happen to get this stuff, I’m going to kick (butt) on this stuff. If I don’t, it’s because I was able to find a way to luck my way through it, because this is a very treacherous thing we’re all dealing with.”
Thus far, the Seahawks have been one of a handful of NFL teams that have yet to place a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. For a man such as Carroll, this is as much of an achievement as just about anything that could take place on the field.
When you’re seeing dozens of players from other organizations testing positive, when you’re seeing whole teams in Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer forced to sit out games, staying COVID-free is a testament to a team’s discipline. Especially considering there is no bubble.
Or is there?
“We don’t bubble like the NBA did or the NHL did, in the same fashion, but don’t think for a second that we aren’t in a bubble,” said Carroll, emphasizing the need for accountability, responsibility and respect among teammates and coaches. “That bubble is the conscience we can hold — always protect the team, rule No. 1 is in effect. It’s crucial that we do a great job with this.”
It was evident Carroll wasn’t simply trying to say the right things to placate the press. Discussing the coronavirus pandemic generated a sincere emotional reaction.
Regarding the nation’s response to the virus, he said, “I’m so disappointed we weren’t tough.” The constant competitor added that the country’s struggles with COVID-19 have stemmed from a lack of mental toughness.
He doesn’t want his team to go down that same route.
“Honestly, I think it’s about mental toughness. It’s about being freakin’ tough, because this ain’t easy. It ain’t easy putting up with all this discomfort and the newness and nuances of it,” said Carroll, who praised Washington’s initial handling of the virus but said “we lost our edge” when things started getting better. “I felt like I gotta get my act together. I gotta get really good at this. So that’s what I’ve tried to be. Mentally, that means you gotta be hard on yourself.”
Before Monday, training camp had technically been under way for a few days, but the Seahawks hadn’t taken the field. Camp had essentially been a quarantine week for the team, but in Carroll’s eyes that didn’t make it any less competitive.
As he often says, his goal was to “win the week,” as players underwent testing and familiarized themselves with protocols. He felt they did that — but when it comes to player safety, there are a lot more weeks to win.
“What’s happening right now is we’re trying to get everything in motion so that we can operate at a really high level of taking care of our guys. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned, of what it takes to make sure our guys are safe; they’re smart about what’s going on, they’re respectful of every aspect of the process,” Carroll said. “We’re going to try and kick (butt) in every aspect of this thing. We’re attacking it with a really clear discussion and open dialogue on what we need to do.”
When it comes to COVID-19 and sports, “uncertainty” is probably the most applicable word. But Carroll seems insistent on reducing that uncertainty as much as humanly possible.