By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — Despite another suspension under the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll insists that the Seahawks “go well past” what the league asks of teams when it comes to educating players about league rules.
Five suspensions under the league’s PED policy since 2011 says the Seahawks still need to do more.
Don’t take my word on that. Just ask Carroll, who when asked if the latest suspension, which was handed down to defensive end Bruce Irvin, has him reevaluating just how they get the message across to players, answered, “Continually, because it’s not right yet. We all know that there are big issues, we all know that. It’s not just here, it’s not just in this sport, it’s in all sports, it’s in schools, it’s everywhere. And we have to figure it out and try to help, through education and through all of the ways that we can, and we will always compete to find more creative ways to make the message clear.”
According to ESPN, the Seahawks’ five PED suspensions since Carroll took over in 2010 are the most in the NFL. And no, I’m not going to say six, lumping cornerback Richard Sherman in there. Because failed test or not, Sherman’s name should have never been leaked before he had a chance to go through — and as it turned out, win — the appeals process.
But going back to late in the 2011 season, guard John Moffitt, tackle Allen Barbre, safety Winston Guy and cornerback Brandon Browner have all served four-game suspensions as first-time violators of the league’s PED policy. In the case of Moffitt, Browner, Irvin and many other players throughout the league, the prescription drug Adderall is blamed as the culprit for a failed test.
And never mind for a second that we can’t be sure why any player failed a test because the league is not allowed to confirm nor contest whatever explanation a player or his agent gives. The Seahawks have an issue in their locker room whether it is with Adderall, unapproved supplements, or something worse. And in no way am I implying that Carroll is overseeing a cheating scandal; instead these failed tests point to a culture of poor decision making by individuals. But ultimately this is Carroll’s team, and he needs to figure out a way for the message to get across better to his players, whether it is coming from him, assistant coaches, general manager John Schneider, or players who are leaders in the locker room.
Carroll can’t threaten harsher punishment such as fines or additional suspensions, because based on the rules of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can’t hand out discipline beyond what is issued by the league. But Irvin’s pending suspension is another reminder that something needs to be done. Some way, some how, Carroll and company need to figure out why their current methods weren’t enough to deter five players in less than two years from making damaging decisions. No coach is ever going to be able to police an entire roster 24 hours a day, but Carroll will be the first to tell you that he needs to figure out a way to convince his players to be smarter about what’s going into their bodies.
“Always,” Carroll said when asked if he takes responsibility for Seattle’s multiple suspensions. “If you look at it like you’re a parent, you can turn your back on your kid if you want, but I’m not doing that. Sometimes the messages that in some areas are taken to heart and delivered upon and you can tell that everybody’s getting on board, then sometimes it doesn’t hit home. That doesn’t mean that we kid them out the door, it means we try to help them through it and make them see the right thing and come out stronger for it.”
According to NFL.com, the league could decide to step in and levy fines if the Seahawks have “Multiple players being suspended in a season for violating the drug, steroid or personal conduct policies.” But for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, a fine from the league should be the least of Seattle’s concerns. Instead, the real fear should be that another bad decision or two could cost the team victories.
And as much as Carroll hopes he can get the message across, ultimately the solution needs to come from within the locker room, both in the form of leaders driving the point home, and with individuals making better decisions.
“We’ve got to make the right decision as players,” said quarterback Russell Wilson. “It’s up to us to make the right decision at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what the coaches say positively or negatively or whatever, we have to make the decision as players, and I think we’ll do that. One thing is that we have to continue to be leaders in the locker room and make sure that everybody knows that’s unacceptable.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.