During Wednesday's practice, the Seahawks showed that earning that shiny silver trophy and a championship ring hasn't taken the edge off of a team that won a title in large part because of the chips players have on their shoulders.
In a practice that could generously be described as spirited, tempers boiled over, players were separated and punches were thrown, forcing Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to pause practice to calm things down.
But while Carroll has said in the past that he doesn't want his players crossing the line and fighting in practice, this kind of intensity at a minicamp workout can only be a good thing for the Seahawks, provided of course that nobody gets hurt. (And now seems like a good time to say that The Herald in no way condones fighting or physical violence as a method of conflict resolution).
Sure throwing punches is probably a bit overboard, especially in a June minicamp, but if you had any question about the Seahawks' motivation coming off a championship, they would have been answered by the sight of Richard Sherman, who is fresh off a big payday, being separated from Doug Baldwin, who is also coming off a big payday and who happens to be one of Sherman's closest friends.
“I think that's what makes us great,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “Not a lot of teams are going to go that hard every single practice, especially a minicamp or an OTA. We go that hard every single time we step on this field, and that's the reason we did what we did last year.”
And again, the Seahawks don't want to see Sherman and receiver Phil Bates throwing punches at each other, which they did Wednesday, but everything that leads up to that moment, the fire, the standing up for your teammates, and for some, the trash talk, that's part of the grit Carroll talks about when he describes what makes the Seahawks who they are.
“Guys here are different,” said safety Earl Thomas, who was involved in plenty of heated conversations himself on Wednesday. “We're never satisfied, we're always trying to prove who we are. It always gets heated like this, and you love it because the whole competition of everybody is raised.”
Wednesday's practice went from intense to violent one play after receiver Bryan Walters suffered an apparent shoulder injury trying to make a catch. There was some contact between Walters and Thomas as the two went after the ball, and Seattle's receivers took exception to that.
Sherman and other defensive backs weren't happy with that reaction, and when Sherman and Bates lined up across from each other on the next play, things escalated quickly. Sherman jammed Bates at the line of scrimmage and the two locked up, eventually going to the ground with Bates' helmet coming off. Bates threw a punch, Sherman retaliated, and whether you prefer the term scuffle, brouhaha, or donnybrook, it was on.
The fight was quickly broken up. Sherman and Bates were separated, then Sherman and Baldwin were pulled apart from each other after exchanging words. Thomas and Baldwin later required a teammate intervention as well.
Finally, Carroll decided to have his team huddle up to calm things down, telling players, according to receiver Paul Richardson, to “Just to remember that we're a family. It's us first, and we all remembered that and continued to compete at a high level.”
Thomas, who jokingly (I think) referred to the receiving group as soft when explaining what went down, will continue to talk trash to teammates and opponents, but points out that, “At the end of the day, we're teammates.”
And being teammates can mean forming a family-like bond that helps a team win a title, but it also means knowing exactly what to say to get a teammate's attention.
“We know each other well now. We know how to get under each other's skin, and there's going to be practices like that,” Thomas said. “But you love practices like this, because everybody's in it, everybody's trying to execute well and everybody's trying to prove the other person wrong.
“It's not surprising to me. This could happen in any practice, whether it's in the season or not. I just think we're all so competitive, if you press one wrong button, everybody will clear the benches.”
Not long after things got heated, Marshawn Lynch, who played peacemaker during the Sherman-Bates scuffle, was laughing and giving Sherman a hard time. Sherman and Bates were hugging it out while still talking a bit of trash, and Sherman and Percy Harvin were playfully recreating the moments leading up to the fight with Bates.
It was clear Carroll's message got through — players were once again acting like family. In any family, however, things can sometimes get carried away.
In the case of Wednesday's practice, one held right next to the Lombardi Trophy, that wasn't a bad thing for a team hoping to build off of a championship season.
“It was great, it felt game-like,” Thomas said. “A lot of situations you can learn from.
“Anytime that we talk, especially in the back end, we always back it up. We're going to make it hard for whoever we play. You can even ask Russell (Wilson) about that.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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