RENTON — On one hand, the whole thing seemed a bit silly.
After his team pulled off a miraculous comeback in the NFC Championship game, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin went out of his way to find reporters waiting to be let into Seattle’s locker room and launched into an impassioned speech, calling out everyone who had doubted his team, both in that game and throughout the season.
“You don’t want to believe in us, it’s OK,” Baldwin said Sunday. “You don’t have to believe in us, because we’re going to believe in ourselves. We ain’t worried about y’all, we’re worried about ourselves.”
Essentially, Baldwin was going out of his way to seek out reporters so he could tell said reporters he isn’t worried about their opinions. Basically, “We don’t care about you, reporters who I just sought out to tell you I don’t care about you.”
He also kept mentioning everyone counting them out and not believing in the Seahawks, which was the case at times in that game, but all year? The Seahawks are the defending champs and were many people’s — mine included — pick to repeat.
So no, Doug, not everyone has doubted the Seahawks, even when you were 3-3 and 6-4.
But while it’s easy to be critical of an athlete playing the “nobody believes in us” card when in fact many, many people believe in them, Baldwin’s rant was also, to borrow his word, indicative of what has helped the Seahawks get back to the Super Bowl the year after winning it, something that hadn’t been done in a decade.
Late last season, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked about his team’s grit, about how that was one of the defining characteristics they look for in players. Grit can manifest itself in different ways for different players, but for many Seahawks, Baldwin and Richard Sherman chief among them, playing with a massive chip on their shoulders, even after a title, even after awards and recognition, and even after new contracts, is a key element to success.
Maybe it takes a little more effort to manufacture that chip when you’ve got a diamond-encrusted ring sitting at home and millions in the bank, but the ability to still do just that has played a role in this team not falling off or getting satisfied after winning a title like so many teams before them have in recent years.
A much calmer Baldwin openly admitted Wednesday that he seeks out that motivation, saying, “Come game time, I’ll find something to throw out there to my guys to get us fired up. We’ll be ready come game time.”
“The advantage of it is that you always have something to fall back on in terms of motivation. Not necessarily what people are saying in the media, but having a true chip, a true bolder on your shoulder, finding something deep down inside that motivates you,” Baldwin added. “For me that’s various things. Sometimes it comes out like you’re yelling at somebody specific, but really it’s not specific, it’s just the built up frustration, whatever it may be, that gets you that motivation.
“That’s for everybody in this locker room. Everybody has something deep down inside of them that pushes them further than their limits. I think that chip on the shoulder, so to speak, is something that helps us and puts us in the situation we’re in, which is going to a second Super Bowl.”
Sherman said he was still a “raggedy dog” on the day he signed a contract that guaranteed him $40 million; Russell Wilson referred to himself as an “underdog” Wednesday, a reference to his draft status, even though he’s a Pro Bowler and Super-Bowl champion; and even first-round picks like Bruce Irvin find motivation in people criticizing the Seahawks for drafting them when they did.
It might be tempting to say, “Get over it, you’ve made it, nobody doubts you anymore,” but those sometimes over-the-top responses to criticism shown by Baldwin on Sunday and Sherman, well, frequently, are a key part of what makes this team tick. Even if that anger is sometimes misguided, it gets the job done.
“It means something to everyone individually,” Irvin said. “It makes every individually more hungry, but as a team we don’t care about (the criticism). All we care about are the 12s and the people in this building; that’s who we play for.”
As Irvin notes, the Seahawks ultimately play for each other, not against their doubters. This team, going back to a November meeting following the loss in Kansas City, is playing together as a team as well as it has in five seasons under Carroll, last year’s championship team included.
It has become routine over the past two months to hear players talk about the love they have for their teammates, their brothers. Defensive backs now say L.O.B. stands for “Love our Brothers” not “Legion of Boom.”
But even amidst all the love, the Seahawks occasionally will make it “us against the world,” even if a lot of the world thinks they’re the best football team on the planet. That grit, that chip, it’s part of these Seahawks; it’s part of what has them back in Super Bowl in a year a lot of people thought they could do it.
Herald Columnist John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org