By John Boyle
The NFL scouting combine starts up this week in Indianapolis, which means press conferences from several coaches and executives. Pete Carroll isn’t scheduled to speak at the combine, but general manager John Schneider did, opening up with a sarcastic, “so this is who we’re going to pick.”
Schneider, like so many other NFL decision makers, has mastered the art of being engaging without giving much away, so he obviously wasn’t really going to open by giving anything away, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t say anything of note Thursday.
Perhaps most significant, though not surprising, was Schneider’s answer to the question of whether or not the Seahawks might use the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Bennett.
“I don’t anticipate that, no,” Schneider told reporters in Indianapolis.
Schneider’s first question was about a rather, um, interesting photo that Earl Thomas posted on Twitter after the Super Bowl, showing a shirtless Schneider wearing a WWE belt. As is usually the case with Schneider, he had a good sense of humor about it.
“It was the day before the super Bowl, it wasn’t after,” Schneider clarified. “I was just trying to lighten the mood a little bit; things got out of hand… It was a moment of weakness, and I wouldn’t, well I’d probably do it again, but there would be guidelines for everybody. My mom had to see that. It’s really bad.”
Schneider’s best line of the day might have come when a reporter asked for an honest assessment of a player (something teams are always hesitant to give, lest they tip their hand).
“Are we in the trust tree?” Schneider quipped.
Asked about the advantages that come with Russell Wilson’s low salary cap number, Schneider said, “It’s been a big deal for us being able to acquire other players and there definitely players we were able to acquire last year who helped us get over the hump.”
Schneider was also asked if there was any tricky dynamic to having a Super Bowl winning quarterback making so little, but Schneider doesn’t see it that way since the Seahawks can’t give Wilson a raise until after the 2014 season based on the rules of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
“I don’t think so, because it is what it is,” he said. “Those are the rules that are set up and we have to abide by them. Everyone understands that if you had the ability to pay a quarterback, you would do that, especially somebody with the character of a Russell Wilson.”
Speaking in more general terms about the future, Schneider said they want to keep the team together, but that long-term success is the ultimate goal: “It’s a huge goal for us to keep this team together as long as we possibly can. There’s tough decisions that have to be made along the way. You don’t look forward to those decisions, but it’s more about long-term. We’ve talked about trying to be a consistent championship-caliber football team and not the one that just cruises in for a year and then cruises out, so we have to work through those issues.”
One reporter noted that the Seahawks have been good at not letting information leak before the draft, something Schneider liked hearing.
“I appreciate you saying that, by the way, I take that as a compliment, I really do,” he said. “… Loose lips sink ships, and I think our people do a very good job keeping things in house.”
Schneider noted that this is the week that talk with free agents starts to heat up since so many executives and agents are in the same place. On receiver Golden Tate, who along with Bennett is one of Seattle’s top unrestricted free agents, Schneider said, “Golden knows where we stand and how much we love him and how much we want him on our team.”
Asked what he looks for in a quarterback (in case you hadn’t heard, the Seahawks nailed a quarterback pick in 2012), Schneider said, “He has to have the locker room. He has to walk into the meeting room and players know, ‘Hey, this guy’s got us. He’s got it.’ That character aspect, (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf would tell you, it’s how they tip the field. Russell’s very much like that, a very confident guy.”
Schneider said that with the draft being later this year, that extra time won’t really change the way the Seahawks prepare: “I don’t think it really impacts it. There’s some guys we’ll work out later. If anything I think it’ll help some players who are injured who in the past weren’t able to work out. But in terms of our preparation, it’s more of the same. My wife’s not too fired up about it.”