Considered the sexy pick by many to contend for a Super Bowl title this upcoming NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks seemed to have everything go their way in an offseason that included the blockbuster acquisitions of Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril. By the time the 2013 NFL Draft rolled around, the Seahawks were able to pad a defensive line, fill holes and take a few chances, a luxury they couldn’t have afforded the last several seasons. Only a few years removed from the Mike Holmgren era, an era that brought the Hawks to their first Super Bowl in 2006, the transformation from Holmgren’s squeaky clean veteran squad to Pete Carroll’s rabble rousers went from slow erosion to overnight Ice Age. The current Seattle squad is quickly gaining a less than tasteful image from NFL fans and purists of the game.
On May 17th, Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Bruce Irvin, was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season after the National Football League announced that he had violated the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Though Irvin is allowed to participate in all offseason activities and preseason games, he will not collect pay nor be able to play for the 2013 regular season games against Carolina, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Houston.
At times overwhelmed, Irvin finished his 2012 rookie campaign with eight sacks and was expected to start at defensive end, due to the injured Chris Clemons missing the start of the season. “I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and Seahawks fans for making a mistake when I took a substance that is prohibited in the NFL without a medical exemption,” Irvin announced through a statement released by the team. “I am extremely disappointed in the poor judgment I showed and take full responsibility for my actions. I will not appeal the discipline and instead will focus my energy on preparing for the season so I can begin earning your trust and respect again. I look forward to contributing to the team the moment I return.”
This suspension follows a terrible string of Seattle players breaking league policy on banned substances. Since 2011, John Moffitt, Allen Barbre, Winston Guy and Brandon Browner all have received four-game suspensions, and All-Pro cornerback, Richard Sherman, was suspended for use of a banned substance but has since won his appeal claiming there were errors in the chain of custody (otherwise known as the Ryan Braun appeal).
The talent in the Seattle Seahawks team has no ceiling, but there are simply too many tearful apologies to take any of them seriously. Seattle is a city that prides itself on pure stars from Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez to Walter Jones and Steve Largent. Seattle is also a city that feels robbed of sports credibility (just or unjust) due largely to an “East Coast” bias and a locational handicap. As with all problems in life, one must look to fix the problem internally before the external façade is repaired.
There is no denying the phenomenal job of head coach Pete Carroll and what he’s put together in the Pacific Northwest. There is no denying that Seattle is one of the top three most solid teams in the NFL right now, even in the running for most solid. What is disconcerting is the reckless abandonment some players are taking to push their limits. Whether Irvin or Browner intended the larger damage that they leave in their wake, the team must come to grips with the fact that they are one organization and they all answer to the “Sea-Hawks” cry.
Referring to the aggressive play in the Washington/Seattle playoff game, Carroll was quoted as saying, “When it crosses the line and you’re doing things that are illegal, or it’s something that is cheap, then we don’t want any part of that, but we want to take it to the edge.” They have certainly taken their antics to the edge, and many would say they blew past the edge at the speed of Mach 5. Carroll’s mantra of “always compete” and aggressive play has been widely noted. It should be clear that this writer is not blaming Carroll for any of the current player/image problems the Seahawks are facing, but when your talented defensive players start testing positive one after another, someone will take the fall, and more often than not, the coach will eventually go down.
The sincerity of Irvin’s statement seems to be there, similar to the sincerity of a ten-year-old that just set the dog on fire. He knew he was wrong and apologized for making poor decisions after the fact, but this isn’t Jessie Spano hooked on caffeine pills, nor are we “so excited.” Irvin is a man and a professional athlete that must own up to his responsibility and deserves no sympathy for a troubled past life. Being drafted as the 15th overall pick in last year’s draft gave him an opportunity few are blessed with, yet he purposefully set the dog on fire.
Seattle fans need to be leery of what is happening in front of them. It’s easy to look at your home team through rose-colored glasses and think that everything smells like roses, but when the reality of it is that something seriously stinks, will they admit it and raise the issue when needed?
The Seattle Seahawks are primed to make a serious Super Bowl run in the most difficult division in the NFL, which is no easy feat. At what point is it enough, before this team is considered dirty or cheaters? Are they already there? Does this franchise feel comfortable crowning their team with its first Lombardi Trophy even though their legacy will be that of the Super Bowl XL winning Pittsburgh Steelers? The “12th Man” certainly should not be comfortable with that.