Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gave his first comments on the team's release of standout cornerback Richard Sherman on Tuesday.
ORLANDO, Fla. — In the wake of his own release and the trade of Michael Bennett to the Eagles, now-former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman questioned the direction of a Seattle team that last season missed the playoffs for the first time in six years.
“I think they’ve kind of lost their way a little bit in terms of how they see players and how they evaluate players,’’ Sherman said during an interview on UNINTERRUPTED’s The ThomaHawk Show earlier this month.
Asked to respond to that critique during his one-hour media availability Tuesday at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll laughed.
“So what else is new?’’ Carroll said. “Sherm has been saying stuff his whole career, so this is nothing different. I’ve been through so much of what he has said, I take it all with a grain of salt. He’s just battling. He’s just trying to figure it out.”
It was a response that typified Carroll’s approach throughout the hour as differing waves of NFL reporters descended on his table — though in far less numbers than the past few years when the Seahawks were coming off recent Super Bowl appearances and were one of the hottest stories in the NFL — each asking varying versions of whether the team’s offseason roster shuffle means Seattle is in full-rebuild mode.
Carroll rebuffed that idea much like Sherman swatted away Colin Kaepernick’s pass during the height of Seattle’s run a few years ago, instead saying he’s never been as excited for a season as this one, and several times using the analogy that what Seattle is undergoing this year is no different than a college team losing a successful graduating class.
“We are just fricking jacked and cranked as we have ever been to keep on going and keep on doing it,’’ Carroll said at one point.
At another, asked if he feels reinvigorated at the challenge of reshaping the roster, Carroll said: “There’s no question, there’s no question, I think more than ever. I am fired up about it, yeah. I’m fired up. We’ve been through all kinds of transitions (in past years). We’ve lost coaches, we’ve lost players, that’s kind of what always happens. So every year you’ve got to kind of recapture it and all that. But I’m just a little bit more jacked. I think I’m maybe still pissed about the way we ended the season and didn’t finish the way wanted to. I think that’s fueling it as much as anything.’’
Then he circled back to the college analogy, saying that if the roster turnover of the offseason caught some by surprise, it was right in line with what Carroll and general manager John Schneider anticipated might happen given the age and salary cap situations of the likes of Sherman and Bennett.
“I think we’re in a very exciting time for us,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve watched our guys come through. John and I, we’ve watched this coming, so we’re not surprised by the cycle that we’re in. The best way I can tell you is that it feels like a graduating class has come through, like we have every year in college—guys come and go. It’s no different here in the league. This one may be a little bit more obvious of a graduating class because the guys kind of came through about the same time frame.
“But we have a very solid group on both sides of the football coming back, all of our guys have played, we have experience. Because guys got banged up last year, other guys came in and already filled those spots, so it’s not like a big transition in our minds, because we’ve already seen other guys play and fill in. So I think we’re picking up where we left off there. … There’s a lot of things that are in place. So we’ve just got to pick up and go for it again, and see if we can stay healthy. That’s a big part of the challenge.’’
Sherman was one of those who did not stay healthy last season, and Carroll said the uncertainty over when and how well he will recover from his Achilles tendon injury played a big role in the team’s decision to release him on March 9.
“He has a lot to endure right now, he’s got a lot coming at him with the rehab process, particularly playing the position he plays,’’ Carroll said. “But I would never count Sherm out on this one. He has always been so possessed about his health and his wellbeing and overcoming the odds. He has been banged up throughout his career, but you didn’t know it. He was able to deal with all kinds of different things, so I would not count him out at all in that regard. However, it is an excruciating process to get back. It’s going to take some time, and hopefully they’ll (the 49ers) give him time and won’t rush him and will give him an opportunity to make it back.”
Carroll also said the Seahawks were exploring ways to keep Sherman at a lesser price than the $11 million he was due in 2018, including being willing to talk to him again once he began getting offers from other teams after he had been released.
“We had some stuff that we had to deal with cap concerns and this time of year stuff happens and I think his was a clear situation it was going to be difficult to keep him with the number that he had, so we had to do something about it,’’ Carroll said.
“We would liked to have been able to do that (keep him at a different salary). But we did not know how other teams would come after it and he’s got a very unusual situation and it’s unique and we weren’t sure what other teams would think of his returning and rehab and all that kind of stuff. So there was an opportunity that maybe it wouldn’t work out for him like he had hoped and we really didn’t know until we got there.’’
Sherman ended up signing a deal with the 49ers that could pay him up to $13 million in 2018 but also includes just $3 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Carroll acknowledged that the departure of Sherman and Bennett – as well as the possibility that Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor may never play again — will change the team’s leadership greatly.
But change, Carroll hinted strongly, can also be good.
“Well I don’t know that you can find a better guy to be a voice and representative of your team than Russell Wilson and Bobby (Wagner),’’ Carroll said. “Bobby Wagner is as good of a leader as you could ever hope for. He has done everything in terms of consistency and production and toughness and mentality, everything about him. He and Russell are great leaders, K.J. Wright is a fantastic leader, Doug Baldwin is an incredible leader. We have not lacked for those kinds of players who step to the front and are willing to send the message and stand for what we’re all about. I have no problem with the leadership aspect of our team at all. We’re in terrific shape.’’
As for Sherman, Carroll portrayed his departure as a logical ending to a story that began many years ago.
“(We) have been through so many things together this was just one more of them,’’ Carroll said. “Kind of like the elder statesman kind of conversation that you’ve go to kind of get to. What was unique about it was knowing Richard since he was a junior in high school and seeing him kind of in the senior category here you know, was pretty interesting how it came down. But I thought it was very well done and very smooth, really.’’