BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 05/02/2015

Thiel: Once again, Seahawks are sooo out there

DE Frank Clark has big upside, but his downside puts the Seahawks in the heart of the NFL storm concerning domestic violence. Carroll and Schneider have rolled the dice again.

Seahawks GM John Schneider, left, and coach Pete Carroll explain the controversial draft of Michigan’s Frank Clark atteam headquarters. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

The gravity of the moment was apparent when John Schneider sat down in the media workroom Friday night at team headquarters, with Pete Carroll at his side, and read from handwritten notes. The glib Seahawks general manager reads from notes as often as Bill Belichick grins.

Nervously, Schneider explained to reporters how he and Carroll, who both previously were on the record about their disdain for players who commit domestic violence, just drafted a guy in the second round who was thrown off the University of Michigan team after an alleged episode of DV with a then-girlfriend.

After reading the written remarks that said DE Frank Clark, based on the team’s research, was worthy of the chance, Schneider dutifully began answering questions when the key one came up quickly:

“Based on information received, Clark never hit the woman?”

Said Schneider: “Yup.”

That brief conclusion flew in the face of a police report of an incident in November, which reporters found online within a minute or two of Clark’s selection. The Detroit Free Press’s account is here, describing an argument turned violent in a motel in Sandusky, OH., between Clark and girlfriend Diamond Hurt, with family and other witnesses.

Schneider was asked if he understood the reaction to the brutal report.

“I would understand that,” he said. “I have four older sisters.

“I would say that there’s always two sides to a story, and you have to go through the whole thing, you can’t just go with one police report. You have to talk to everybody involved –  everybody.”

It’s true that a police report is just that, a report. The report is not always accurate. The people of Baltimore recently have been addressing that issue.

In this case, the report was sufficient to file a misdemeanor domestic assault charge, and for then-Wolverines coach Brady Hoke to throw Clark off the team. To that point, he had 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and, at 6-2 and 277 pounds with good speed, looked every bit a draftable player.

The place for the decision is a courtroom. On April 10, the Sandusky Municipal Court — in Ohio, not Michigan — said a plea agreement had been reached that dropped down the charge to disorderly conduct. Clark, 21, was sentenced to three days in jail with credit for time served, and fined $350. He was ordered to complete counseling and was charged $50 for probation services.

But coupled with a freshman-year burglary charge that resulted in a stolen laptop, Clark appeared to be damaged goods, given the intense scrutiny the NFL was under for its clumsy, tone-deaf actions regarding domestic violence episodes among its players. Some media speculation around the time of the February combine had Clark washing out of the draft.

As for Clark’s take, on a teleconference call, he was predictably grateful for the chance, and contrite about his baggage. He stuck to his claim that he never hit his girlfriend.

“I simply put myself in a position where I shouldn’t have been in,” he said. “I shouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place. I take full responsibility for everything that happened. I take responsibility for the laptop.

“I believe I was wrong, and I am sorry. The main reason I am, is because I put myself in a position where I shouldn’t have been. I’m not saying I did anything wrong as far as putting my hands on a woman, (but) I do apologize to everyone it may have affected. No one should have to go through that — whether you’re the person who’s looking into it, or in the middle of it, or the woman. I don’t believe a woman should ever have to go through something like that.

“I don’t believe anyone should put a hand on a woman.”

Carroll, as ever, believes his long experience in dealing with kids from broken, impoverished families — Clark grew up in Los Angeles and for a time was homeless, but eventually moved to Cleveland  — gives him some cred when dealing with behavioral risks.

“We are concerned (with how it looks); of course we are,” he said. “That’s why we had to do such a thorough job of understanding what was at hand. Every guy is an individual case. That’s why our (scouts and personnel people) did such a thorough job to decide to give this man an opportunity.

“The years of having kids who’ve had issues allows us to think we can help him be successful, by our approach and the resources. We feel very confident. We wouldn’t have done this otherwise.”

While Carroll has had many success stories, he also had one colossal flop with the Seahawks — Percy Harvin. He had no known issues with domestic violence, but he had conflicts with his coaches at the University of Florida as well as with the Minnesota Vikings.

The mercurial wide receiver cost the Seahawks large treasure to obtain him, and he did some spectacular deeds as a Seahawk. But all the things Carroll intimated about prevailing with Harvin where others could not, came crashing down in October, when the Seahawks all but fired him because he became unmanageable.

The circumstances of Harvin and Clark are different, but they are connected to Carroll because of his strong belief that he can reach just about anyone. Carroll has been right more often than he has been wrong, but mistakes with high-profile players on a high-profile team carry a certain megatonnage.

At the moment, there is no evidence that Clark’s altercation with his girlfriend was a fireable offense at Michigan, nor was it a DV conviction in court. So to suggest that Carroll and Schneider are deliberately marginalizing trouble to get one of their special athletes on the field is not justifiable — yet.

In NFL poker, Carroll and Schneider have a penchant for boldness that is breathtaking. They just shoved a whole bunch more chips on table. Again. They must be close to certain, because they first have to justify the bet to their wives and sisters.

 


YourThoughts

  • Tian Biao

    well, I have to say, the ‘Hawks are always interesting. still, these ticking time bombs make me nervous. I read a quote from draft guru Mike Mayock, in talking about Johnny Manziel, he admitted he was wrong in touting Manziel, and said, ‘the kid ultimately turns into who he’s always been.’
    The article went on to say that every once in a while, rarely, a kid does turn a corner and grow up and mature, and the example was Cris Carter. Locally, I suppose you could point to Dennis Johnson.
    None of us fans know who Clark is, or ‘who he’s always been,’ or whether he has the capacity to mature, but I imagine we are going to find out sometime soon.

    • John M

      Well see how it goes after he gets a couple nice checks and a fancy ride . . .

      • art thiel

        Which can be said of us all.

      • eYeDEF

        What are you saying, that he’s going to go out and start serially abusing women when he gets a little money? That’s a pretty large leap.

        • art thiel

          I think his point is that sudden wealth often confers a sense of recklessness on young people who’ve never had money.

          • John M

            Yes, Art, it does effect everyone, and also generally illuminates character flaws. I hope his words now are the real Frank. At least he’ll have about the best environment in football to avoid previous mistakes . . .

    • ReebHerb

      Clark should be fine after enrolling in Doug Baldwin’s finishing school. Tea slurping days will disappear.

      • art thiel

        I’m guessing Doug has been reading Miss Manners.

    • art thiel

      Mayock is foolish to make such a sweeping generality. Lots of people have overcome self-destructive behaviors. Don’t know anything about Clark to suggest he will or won’t.

    • eYeDEF

      From all appearances this looked like a one off incident with Clark, not a perpetual pattern of behavior. That’s a big difference in accurately trying to gauge whether a guy is a ‘ticking time bomb’ that you’re painting him as. I would dispute that Clark is what you’re claiming he is.

      • Tian Biao

        It’s not really a ‘one off’ incident with Clark. it’s two incidents: a home invasion/laptop theft and a domestic violence. but you’re right: let’s wait and see what happens. I think most of us would genuinely like to see him do well.

      • art thiel

        Can’t know either way. But the Seahawks need to be aware that there are limits on the ability of any coach/team to moderate self-destructive behavior in some people.

  • ollie swensen

    Even if this person turns out to be a productive player eventually, a question could remain of if there was another player available at that selection with as much “upside” as Clark but without the baggage would they have been the better pick. The only name we will probably remember from this draft is Jimmy Graham.

    • art thiel

      That hypothetical is almost unknowable. And I wouldn’t assume anything about the lower picks, given the Seahawks success rate with them.

  • RadioGuy

    As long as the Seahawks keep winning, the vast majority of the faithful won’t care about whether their team is populated by reprobates. Questions about character never surface until a team goes below .500 because victory is the opiate.

    • art thiel

      That’s true of most fans. But the growing campaign against DV is putting teams on a real hot seat, one the Seahawks bosses are willing to accept.

      • RadioGuy

        “That’s true of most fans.”
        Agreed. As easy as it’s been for me to be a sports fan for 40+ years, it’s become harder because players still do what they do, teams still brush off what they do and other fans don’t care what they do as long as they win.
        I’ve lately been revisiting my own support for big league and major college sports teams because continuing to do so has meant accepting the baggage they carry with them, something I’m not comfortable buying into. None of us is perfect (athletes included) and it’s always naïve to make heroes out of flawed human beings but, for me, sports should be a haven from day-to-day venality rather than reflecting it.

        • eYeDEF

          But it’s been going on for the last 40 years and by all accounts of common sense these issues were FAR worse 40 years ago when the media didn’t report it and DV was not even on the public consciousness. I can understand you developing a greater conscience as you get older, but lets not pretend like social progress hasn’t made incidents far less common that used to be taken for granted but you just never heard about them.

          • art thiel

            You’re right — most athletes today are wiser than any previous generation. And they are better supported.

        • art thiel

          Actually, little has changed except the money. Some athletes then were as foolish and self-destructive as some are now. But media often hid the truth then. That changed in the 1970s.

          Sports have always been reflective of society, never a haven. You just chose to see it that way.

  • Gerald Turner

    Always with the change up pitch with these guys. Every body going big WR, they draft a water bug.

    • John M

      Does anyone know how tall Tyler Lockett is? I’ve seen his height listed as 5-11, 5-10 and 5-9. Is he shrinking or does he just bob up and down a lot? . . .

      • art thiel

        Do you really care?

        • John M

          Well, I’d like to know if he has to jump for the cereal box on top of the fridge . . .

          • art thiel

            Listed at 5-11, so he’d have a hard time posting up Wilson.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said his big WR is Chris Matthews.

  • jafabian

    I’ve been surprised at the mixed reaction from the 12th Man and local media regarding Clark being drafted by the Seahawks when it’s been well established that Coach Carroll gives players second chances. Both Golden Tate and Bruce Irvin has serious issues when drafted and became heavy contributors for the Super Bowl win. Clark sounds like he’ll fit in the same kind of role Irvin has currently.

    • art thiel

      Domestic violence became a huge hot button for the NFL this year. Second chances are hard to come by with DV and many people.

  • 1coolguy

    I cannot agree with the Lockett choice, given the horrible state of the OL.
    Who needs another tiny receiver?

    • art thiel

      His position label on the draft board is return specialist. He may be a fifth receiver.

      • John M

        They did need a return guy. You hold your breath when a starter fields a kickoff. And water bugs have done pretty well in this roll . . .

  • Kirkland

    When I first heard about Clark’s issues, my stomach knotted. The optics of drafting a player with a DV issue hanging over his head, after the NFL’s bad run in that field, are terrible, like the Mariners signing Josh Lueke a few years ago. If female Seahawks fans, especially those who have witnessed/suffered DV issues, burn their season tickets, I can’t blame them, regardless of his official legal status. I can only hope Clark both becomes a terrific player AND was simply in a wrong-place-wrong-time situation, otherwise this could unravel the team’s bond with the community.

    I remember Art writing in the P-I in the day how Tim Ruskell prioritized character in his personnel decisions. Ruskell may have been a bad GM, but if he had passed over Clark, I think many fans would’ve been fine with his choosing to avoid the PR hit over Clark’s talent potential.

    • art thiel

      The choice puts a conflict upon any fan of conscience regarding support of the team. Support is always about emotions, not logic. There’s nothing about Clark right now that compels supporting him or the Seahawks choice among fans.

  • Bo Callahan

    Did any of his teammates attend his 21st birthday party?

  • Carol Poole

    Thanks for asking the important questions. I’m a therapist and, because domestic violence is all too common, I’ve often had to consult with colleagues who specialize in DV offender treatment. I think there’s a general idea that if you’re against DV then you have to be against the offenders. But it’s actually only a small percentage of offenders who are sociopathic enough to deliberately choose to use violence and domination in their relationships. In most cases, the offender gets impulsively violent–toward self and/or others–because he (or she) loses self-control under the pressure of emotions he/she doesn’t know how to handle more safely. Such a person already feels intense shame about the violence, so public shaming doesn’t help. What many DV victims and family members actually want is for their offending loved one to take responsibility for their actions, and get help. It would be great if society held people accountable for domestic violence, but supported offenders who own up to their problems and seek help for them. Therapy that reduces shame and reinforces responsibility while giving people tools for handling their emotions safely can help offenders who truly don’t want to hurt their partners or themselves. (Note: it’s crucial that offenders and the world in general don’t minimize abuse, or blame the victim, or pretend the problem isn’t real; it’s not clear to me yet, either, whether Frank Clark is owning whatever his problems are or minimizing them, so I appreciate your skepticism.)

    • Kirkland

      Very much appreciate your perspective, Carol. My issue with the Clark pick is that it comes right off the heels of the other DV stuff in the league, and many who try to give him the benefit of the doubt looks right now to be tone-deaf at best, enabling at worst. It’s almost like propping up Joe Paterno’s strong graduation rate of his players during the Penn State scandal; it might be true, but very bad optics at the time, especially to abuse victims.

  • Warchild_70

    Coming from the Southern culture a woman is a pearl to be treasured. They (women) are considered a flower, the bell of the ball. To have laid a hand on a woman would result in stern admonishment or possible physical restraint. To have struck a women would have the entire family of father,brothers,cousins,uncles, etc.etc. lined up for administrating the butt whippin’ of a lifetime! Of course every one has it’s day in court and through due process this young lad has been found innocent of assault and the team heriarcy has found him usable and trainable only GOD can judge, I will remain in the shadows and see what will emerge from this.