The dynamic in the Seahawks’ locker room may never be as important – and as potentially volatile – as it will be in the upcoming season.
Perhaps you’ve joined me this week in envious gawking at the Instagram and Twitter photos from Hawaii, where 22 Seahawks players are frolicking in the tropics. And rubbing it in our faces.
Oh, they’re also working hard at various conditioning and football activities on what essentially is a working vacation, the third annual Russell Wilson-organized offseason passing camp and social wing-ding.
This year, it has expanded to include defensive players, and they’ve taken the act from Southern California to Hawaii. And judging from the evidence on social media, the Seahawks are living it up in paradise – swimming, snorkeling, attending luaus, golfing, and generally doing all the stereotypical activities that make a Hawaiian excursion so much fun.
I bring this up because the dynamic in the Seahawks’ locker room may never be as important – and as potentially volatile – as it will be in the upcoming season.
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This is a team that is coming off one of the most agonizing defeats in professional sports history, and that’s no hyperbole. The Seahawks have vowed to use the pain of their Super Bowl loss as a galvanizing force, but that’s easier said than done.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll immediately acknowledged that not all the players were on the same page about the fateful play call at the end of the Super Bowl. Carroll’s considerable skill in team-building (and restoration) will never be more challenged than in the aftermath of second-and-goal from the 1, and moving past whatever internal second-guessing might still linger.
The notion that Carroll and the Seahawks’ coaching staff might have preferred having Wilson win the Super Bowl MVP award over Marshawn Lynch has always struck me as patently absurd. But to the extent that some players may actually believe that, as has been reported — and substantiated by former Seahawks wide receiver Ben Obomanu, who said in a KJR interview that “a couple players, current players, have expressed that sentiment” — indicates there’s some damage control to be done.
Lynch himself will be an interesting case. Few know for sure how Lynch really felt about not getting the ball at the goal line. The fact that Lynch, amid speculation that he might retire, decided in early March to re-sign for two more years is a strong statement that any resentment is not insurmountable.
The fact that many of the Seahawks’ team elders are bonding under the Maui sun is an encouraging sign as well. When Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle, he noted in a conference call how close-knit the Seahawks have always seemed from the outside looking in.
“It just seems like they have a culture there that kind of breeds a brotherhood and they pull for each other and that they kind of compete and it seems like for them it’s all about winning,’’ he told reporters. “It’s not about individual anything but about what does it take to get the win, and I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.’’
That has indeed always been the Seahawks’ vibe, a tribute not only to Carroll and John Schneider for acquiring the right people, but to the players themselves for being a self-policing unit. Not that they are infallible in the camaraderie department, however. The Percy Harvin trade last October revealed a supposed locker room rift that even hinted of racial overtones — a faction of African-American players that believed Wilson “wasn’t black enough.”
But they worked through and past that, earned the NFC title, and came within a yard of winning the Super Bowl. The latest delicate issue involves the acquisition of Graham, who was very visibly not a favorite of some Seahawks when he played for the Saints.
The sight of Graham interacting with his new teammates in Hawaii bodes well. So does the Instagram photo that Bruce Irvin sent out of him and Graham having to be restrained by teammates from fighting each other. It was a light-hearted nod to their near skirmish before a playoff game in January of 2014. The fact that they could joke about it — and the hashtag “LoveOurBrothers” accompanying the picture — shows both are ready to let bygones be bygones.
So, apparently, is Michael Bennett, who labeled Graham as “soft” and “overrated” after that same playoff game. But Bennett’s conciliatory comments in his recent 710 ESPN interview had an edge: “I still feel the same way. Just because he’s on my team I don’t stop feeling that way. Obviously, I’m going to be a better teammate to him because he’s on my team.”
That’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy welcome, but Bennett at least left himself open to be won over by Graham. The new tight end no doubt realizes he needs to show not just Bennett but everyone else that he has the requisite toughness to fit into this particular team.
The Bennett dynamic, meanwhile, is one to watch amid the reports that he had asked to be traded because of dissatisfaction over his contract. Bennett denied on 710 he had asked for a trade (“Everything is good”), but didn’t address his feelings about his contract.
Wilson, meanwhile, will play next season either with a massive new contract, or having been unable to reach agreement on one. Either circumstance brings with it a unique potential challenge within the locker room; either a highly decorated quarterback still with uncertainty about his financial future, or so richly rewarded that the Seahawks’ largesse will have to be reconciled by veteran teammates who still regard him, in some cases, as the new young kid.
All in all, it’s a lot of potential land mines around which the Seahawks will have to maneuver. But as you watch about half the Seahawks’ team gallivanting on the beach in Hawaii, it doesn’t seem to be beyond their capabilities to keep breeding a brotherhood.