I don’t begrudge the Seahawks right to sign Brock, who was facing domestic-violence charges before they were dropped in June. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. My default would be to err on the side of caution, even if that costs you a potentially valuable player.
I listened to Tramaine Brock’s agent proclaim his client’s innocence Wednesday.
I heard Brock state that it was a “misunderstood situation” that resulted in felony domestic-violence charges in June related to an alleged incident in April in Santa Clara, Calif., involving the mother of his children. Those charges were dropped last week because of insufficient evidence when the alleged victim declined to testify.
I learned that the Seahawks had launched their own investigation into the case, one that satisfied them that Brock was telling the truth when he said he never struck the woman, as she originally claimed.
But I can’t help it. The Seahawks’ decision to sign Brock, a veteran cornerback who had played the previous seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers — the last two as a starter — makes me uncomfortable.
Understand, I don’t begrudge them their right to do so; but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, just as I objected two years ago when the Seahawks drafted Frank Clark in the wake of a particularly sordid domestic-violence incident that was also eventually dismissed.
Ultimately, fans will have to decide for themselves whether they want to root for players associated with domestic-violence cases. Brock said Wednesday, after his first practice with the Seahawks, “I mean, everybody’s got their opinion. Some people are going to think I did something, and then there’s going to be some people that’s not going to think it.”
Fans tend to want to think the best of players on their favorite team, so I suspect that many, or perhaps most, of the 12s will welcome Brock to the fold. He certainly provides inexpensive depth at a vital position, and he spoke Wednesday of his eagerness at becoming a member of the Legion of Boom.
But despite the indication that Brock’s then-girlfriend recanted her charges that Brock assaulted her following a dispute over what to watch on television, I remain troubled by the reported details of the case. The original police statement said the woman had “visible injuries” when officers arrived at Brock’s home on April 6. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she also told police Brock tried to “strangle her multiple times in a single day while his friend was visiting.”
Brock said he wasn’t even home at the time of the alleged incident. Asked to explain the “visible injuries,” Brock’s agent, Ron Slavin, said, “We have a text message with her saying that she was going to harm herself if he didn’t come home.”
The woman has not been identified in court records or media reports.
According to Slavin, 11 teams besides the Seahawks were satisfied enough with the case’s resolution to make calls about Brock to the agent. That includes, apparently, the 49ers, who had released Brock the day after his arrest in April.
“The 49ers deny it, but they called the minute it got dismissed,” Slavin said. “They wanted to get him back. So that tells you what they think of him as a person, too.”
It probably also tells you what they think of Brock as a player who can help their team. The Seahawks, Slavin said, were monitoring Brock’s situation almost from the moment he was released, interest that appears to have been influential when it came time for Brock to make his decision on where to sign.
“They were kind of by my side through the whole process,’’ Brock said.
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Slavin said the Seahawks “outworked everybody else” in doing their due diligence before signing him Wednesday to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum of $900,000. Slavin said he has a good relationship with Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and assured him early on that the incident was not as portrayed, “and if you get in here, you are going to get a good player because it’s going to get dismissed.”
Slavin said he had talked to the Seahawks weekly since April.
“They sent their security,’’ he said. “They sent a private investigator, they sent another police officer down to Los Angeles to talk to the woman. They have interviewed Tramaine multiple times, so it was a long process. They wanted to make sure they checked all the boxes.’’
The Seahawks confirmed they hired an independent private investigator to supplement their own investigation, all of which, they say, corroborated what Brock told them. The woman’s lawyer released a statement last week that said, “My client’s choice not to testify was voluntary and not dependent upon past or future actions by any part. She has indicated to me that this was a verbal altercation.”
That’s all encouraging, and certainly gives the Seahawks cover to sell their signing of Brock, though it’s possible the NFL might wield some punishment after conducting its investigation. Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys was recently suspended six games despite not being charged with a domestic-violence crime over claims by his former girlfriend that he had attacked her several times over the course of a week.
In the absence of evidence as unambiguous as the videotape that revealed Ray Rice punching his fiancee in the face — and forever changed the NFL’s response to domestic violence — the truth will always be murky in cases such as this. My default would be to err on the side of caution, even if that tack, on occasion, costs you a potentially valuable player.
The Seahawks — an organization on record as stating they would never sign a player who struck a female — obviously feel comfortable enough with Brock’s character, and his ability to thrive in their culture, that they’re going to give him a shot. Brock said he just wants to move forward now that “the process and everything is under the rug.”
That’s where domestic violence gets swept too often. Our justice system has spoken, and Brock has the right to pursue his vocation. But I shall remain uncomfortable as he does so in Seattle.