BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 09/15/2020

Thiel: Seahawks get work in ahead of any tumult

According to Pete Carroll, credit for some of the smooth first-game execution in Atlanta was because of preseason talks that make the Seahawks “forever a close team.”

Pete Carroll thought the execution Sunday in Atlanta for a first game was “maybe as good as we’ve seen.”/ Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After all the disruptions this year to daily life as well as to sports, and their calendars, rules and customs, any NFL team could be forgiven for spitting up in its opener. But the Seahawks not only didn’t spit up in Atlanta, they cooked.

On the road against a solid Falcons team, they were up 31-12 with 11 minutes left, and only a generous prevent defense eliminated use of the word rout.

The 43 in Minneapolis put up by the Green Bay Packers was the only offensive production on the first weekend to exceed Seattle’s in the 38-25 win.

“I thought it looked like a really good demonstration of executing for a first game,” said coach Pete Carroll Monday, “maybe as good as we’ve seen.”

The relative efficiency suggests the Seahawks made it through the travails as well as any team. Obviously the football reasons for that are many (two being QB Russell Wilson and SS Jamal Adams). Carroll also cited a non-football factor that’s hard to quantify.

Referring to multiple Zoom meetings over the summer regarding Black Lives Matter and anti-racist activism, Carroll, responding to a question, said on his Monday ESPN 710 radio show that the intensity of those conversations “took us to a place where this team is going to forever be a close team.”

He described a sensory feature of  Zoom meetings that are impactful, perhaps more than large, in-person meetings.

“There was an intensity to the exchanges, in the sharing of our stories, and the interaction we had on that screen,” he said. “You’re just looking at the person that’s telling you, and everybody’s tuned in.

“I think also there’s a solitude that (speakers) feel when you’re on your own, in your own home. There’s an openness that comes from that, that was really powerful.”

Carroll described discussions about race that even teammates who think they’re friends rarely discuss for fear of distracting from the professional objectives.

“White guys and Black guys trying to explain what it feels like” to each other, he said. “There’s a big spectrum of what it feels like. That in itself has been so revealing to so many. Black guys have learned how hard it is for white guys to see what the heck’s going on. White guys, they can’t deny the fact of what it is to live a Black man’s world.

“It generates closeness and a connection. You really can’t really understand somebody until you really see them and hear them.”

In the pre-game Sunday, the Seahawks and Falcons agreed upon a couple of non-anthem gestures.

The teams gathered separately in opposite end zones for the playing of “Lift Every Voice,” considered the Black national anthem. After the kickoff that went into the end zone, all 22 players on the field took knees for several seconds to protest racial injustice, thus avoiding the mis-characterizations around the national anthem.

As for the anthem, the Seahawks players were free to do as they pleased. Some stayed in the locker room, the rest were on the sidelines, where some stood, some knelt, some sat, some prayed. Adams stood and held up a black-gloved fist.

“I wanted to not only stand strong, I wanted to show that I’m a Black man and I’m proud to be Black,” Adams said post-game. “That’s what I kind of wanted to show with my fist held high.”

The absence of coordination reflected the fact that Black players, as with any ethnicity, are not monolithic in their views, and their willingness to express them. It also reflected the fact that Carroll learned something from the episode in 2017 after President Trump, in a deliberately provocative Friday speech, called for owners to fire players who followed the lead of Colin Kaepernick and kneeled during them anthem.

Arriving for a game in Tennessee, the Seahawks spent most of Saturday in intense meetings about how to respond Trump’s incendiary remarks. The emotional energy they spent played a role in the Seahawks’ 33-27 loss the next day. Carroll learned a lesson.

“It just affected us too much to the negative, because it was so emotional,” he said later at his Monday presser. “It was just too close to game time. That was a mistake on my part. We had to meet on it, we had to do it, but it just sapped us some. We didn’t have our normal juice that we have.

“Because of that time, and all of the the other things we’ve been through — not all the same guys, but the same leadership basically — we’ve been able to navigate now and see things differently. We just see it more clearly.”

Carroll said his players knew then relatively little about Black Lives Matter. He invited to the VMAC renowned civil rights activist Dr. Harry Edwards to help coaches and players talk to one another.

“Harry taught us about relationships,” he said. “He taught us about listening. He taught us about the value of sharing your stories.”

As to what this has to do with winning football, well, Pro Football Focus and the other analytics sites have zero metrics for this sort of thing.

But as the NFL attempts to conduct a season in the pending political hurricane around the most important presidential election since 1864, it seems worthwhile to prepare in any way for distraction and divisiveness by knowing who among the professional colleagues has one’s back.

You know, proactive instead of reactive, as were the Seahawks in 2017.

“So, I may be wrong,” Carroll said about going to lengths to connect players with each other, him, and the world outside of football. “I don’t think so, though. I think it’s going to be a very important part of our makeup.”

The early returns from Sunday suggest the Seahawks have the lead in the non-metric of crisis management.


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YourThoughts

  • Kevin Lynch

    All joy and glory to the anthem ‘Lift Every Voice’. Technically, of course, to be a national anthem you would have to get that enacted by Congress. Star Spangled Banner was popular through the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th but was not the national anthem until 1932 and Congress’ declaration. There was competition from ‘Hail! Columbia’ and ‘America’ and other songs. W.C. Handy’s ‘Hail to the Spirit of Freedom’ should be considered for a Black anthem as well. It honored and celebrated 50 years of freedom for Blacks when composed in 1915.

    • art thiel

      I defer to your musical history. My personal anthem is Tutti Frutti. Haven’t found a stadium or arena to go along.

      • Husky73

        Oh Rudy!

  • Husky73

    Why is the national anthem played prior to a sports contest? We don’t do it before a movie, or a play, or a concert, or a street fair, or before school or prior to church.

    • jafabian

      It’s a wartime tradition started during WW2 to show support for US troops. I’ve always felt that it’s time to stop it but that would probably create a huge backlash.

    • 1coolguy

      It’s patriotic and I don’t see what the downside is. Why would anyone object?

      • art thiel

        I’m OK with it, and since it represents our constitutional liberties, I’m OK with people sitting, or kneeling.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Good to hear that the team is handling the distractions, enough to have great focus. They certainly have it in them to perform well (I don’t know how to attribute swing passes to Carson to all of this, but keep it coming!).

    More importantly, I see it as a sign that they must feel like there is a pathway forward on the topic of social injustice or that they have made effective choices in doing their part. They are setting a great example for the rest of our society in these awkward times. The whole bunch of them are Pros, in every sense of the word. I’m sure proud of them!

    • art thiel

      I’m not sure whether anyone sees a clear path forward, at least not until after Nov. 3. Meantime, players and many other athletes feel compelled to try the podium. Few will have it long, and nearly all are young. But movements always have a flashpoint, and we’re past that. I await an NFL owner’s serious response.

  • jafabian

    I’m impressed that Coach Carroll brought in Dr. Edwards to speak but then I’ve been impressed with the list of speakers he’s brought in since joining the organization. For those not familiar Dr. Edwards is a sociologist and civil rights activist who is a Professor Emeritus at Cal. He’s worked with the Warriors and Niners and with MLB in recruiting Black Americans for front office positions. I’d love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when he spoke with the team.

    It’s disappointing how a peaceful demonstration started by Colin Kaepernick has only grown into something controversial after four years. It’s disappointing how some are still closed minded at the racism and prejudice that exists in America even today. Especially ones who are in a position of influence or leadership. It’s disappointing that violence and deaths among Black Americans continues to grow in America and the lines of division within America have been encouraged. Are you a Democrat? Republican? Do you support Black Lives Matter? CHOP? Gun control? Defunding police? Do you support wearing a mask? Building a wall along Colorado? Oops….I mean Mexico. The lines grow daily.

    The NFL has an opportunity to do something special. Get people united, if at least for one day during the week for a few hours. Eddie Murphy once said the Ku Klux Klan, after holding one of their cross burning rallies, probably go home, throw their white robe and hood in the wash, put on their favorite NFL jersey, head to a bar and watch the Bears play raving at how Walter Payton is the best player ever and wish they could run like him. If the League can build on moments where they have people’s attention then maybe things can finally move on from what Kap started.

    • Husky73

      I applaud your post, but, based on history (thousands of years, and not just in America), I have no optimism for unity– today or in the future.

      • art thiel

        It has been that way for all human empires, but a constitutional democacy has been a glorious try at an alternative. I’m not ready to quit yet.

        • Husky73

          I will endeavor to keep a sliver of hope alive, right up until Trump is re-elected. That may signal the end of our “constitutional democracy.” Will you then wave the white flag?

      • jafabian

        I still believe in Dr. King’s dream.

        • art thiel

          I had the privilege of visiting Mandela’s cell in the Robben Island prison off the coast of South Africa. He spent 27 years there before being released to help save his country from apartheid. If he could persevere against such odds, it’s the least I could do to try in my own tiny world.

          • jafabian

            He was imprisoned for allegedly initiating guerrilla warfare against the South African government to becoming their president. That’s amazing. Sadly, according to American diplomat Donald Rickard it was the CIA who informed South African authorities in 1962 where to find Mandela when they arrested him because they believed he had strong Communist ties. In fact Mandela wasn’t taken off the US terror watch list until 2008. A decade after he finished his first term as president. That fact couldn’t have been lost on him.

          • art thiel

            The FBI under Hoover was one of the most shameful periods in modern U.S. history.

  • ll9956

    Perhaps slightly off the subject: I seem to recall a point in the not-too-distant past when Colin Kaepernick underwent a transition from someone who was widely criticized to someone who many expressed sympathy or praise for. I can recall commenting that regardless of the apparent change of opinion, no coach or GM had seen fit to offer him a serious tryout, let alone a contract. Now that many players have taken up the actions that he initiated before these actions became acceptable, Kaepernick’s opportunities still haven’t changed.

    • art thiel

      Strictly from a football perspective, each season without game action makes him less viable. The informal blacklisting did the job the owners sought.