Pete insists plan was behind roster churn; 49ers vote Sunday
RENTON — One of the most unforgettable moments of my journalism career was sitting in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics when more than 10,000 performers were on or under the stadium floor — at once.
TV couldn’t capture it, because groups were running off and on while acts were underway that occupied the cameras.
I thought I’d never again see such an astounding swirl of organized humanity.
Then over the past week, I followed the Whohawks.
OK, there were differences.
The Whohawks, I’m convinced, ran more than 10,000 players in and out of their VMAC practice facility. And I don’t think they were as organized as the Chinese performers.
Don’t take it from me. During his news conference Wednesday, head coach Pete Carroll was busy dismissing concerns that the team’s roster churn was a bewildering madhouse fated to render the team inert for Sunday’s opener against San Francisco at Qwest Field.
He made a reference to left tackle Troy Polumbus, who will play Sunday in place of injured rookie Russell Okung, and in place of injured Ray Willis, as well as in place of Mansfield Wrotto, who was cut — not to mention last year’s candidates at the position: Damion McIntosh, Brandon Frye, Sean Locklear and Kyle Williams.
Problem was, the player Carroll referenced is named Tyler Polumbus.
Troy, Tyler, whatever. Troy is an easy name to fall back on when you’ve been at USC a long time.
Besides, Matt Hasselbeck has had so many left tackles attempt to protect his blind side since Walter Jones went down for good that “Hey, you, block that guy!” has become a standard part of his huddle rhetoric.
For the record, the players seem good with the moves the front office made during this Tokyo-subway-station period in franchise history.
“I’m all in with whatever the front office has done,” said linebacker Aaron Curry. “You can’t stop in your tracks and reflect about what’s happened. I just do what I’m told and play hard.”
Remember that thought the next time you hear a team-sports athlete say, “We’re all family here.”
Since the “final” roster was set Saturday, including practice squad hires, one club count had 41 roster moves, including signing practice squad members, and 182 since Carroll and GM John Schneider began in January.
Carroll’s book was entitled, “Win Forever.” The prologue must have been entitled, “Introduce Forever.”
Carroll claimed that the blizzard has upgraded the talent level, which is hard to tell from the outside since most changes have come in the bottom third of the roster. About 90 percent of the talent on one NFL team is about the same as the talent level on the next, and the Seahawks made no moves to acquire or shed anyone in the top percent of difference-makers, with the arguable exception of receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
What the churn does do is put a crimp in strategy and game-planning when a couple dozen guys don’t know the team code from play to play.
“We had so many bodies in and out (during the exhibition season), one quarter, two quarters, that it’s difficult to put things together,” said Art Valero, the assistant offensive line coach.
The reason anyone was talking to an assistant line coach was because of the biggest change of the weekend — the unexpected retirement of respected line chieftain Alex Gibbs. At 69, Gibbs was said by a club spokesman to be “worn out,” but there was no explanation whether he was worn out by being 69, or worn out by trying to remember at whom he was shouting.
While Carroll was dismissing Gibbs’ retirement as something sort of expected, given that Gibbs had been doing more consulting than coaching in his most recent previous stints, that wasn’t the understanding of the players, some of whom indicated Wednesday they were stunned.
“Shocked,” he said, ‘”shocked and disappointed. His loss hits hard.”
Pat Ruel, a former assistant under Carroll at USC, has been hired to replace Gibbs, but Valero is the guy in charge Sunday until things appear more organized to Ruel than an electric football tabletop game.
Carroll insisted that the roster tumult was no big deal, and that he and Schneider knew it was coming before training camp began (take that, former GM Tim Ruskell).
“Absolutely,” he said. “John talked about this from day one. We were prepared and we had a direction about what were trying to get done when it came to this time.
“We were very well organized to go after the guys that showed up being available. He was able to predict for the most part what was going to happen.”
The result was that 26 players remain on the roster from the 5-11 season that cost Jim Mora his single-season coaching head coaching job, and 27 are new. As of about 5:30 Wednesday afternoon.
In the long term, given the five-year Ruskell reign of error that compromised the past two seasons, the flush may make sense. But the long term does not include Sunday, when Troy . . . um, Tyler Polumbus, will share the job of protecting Hasselbeck’s blind side with another tackle, name of Chester Pitts, the guy with the big brace on his surgically repaired right knee.
Schneider isn’t the only guy who can predict what’s going to happen.