Seattle Seahawks

Toning down Seahawks’ contact in offseason will test Carroll’s style

In addition to fining the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll, above, the team also lost its fifth-round pick in 2017.
In addition to fining the Seahawks and coach Pete Carroll, above, the team also lost its fifth-round pick in 2017. The Associated Press

Seahawks players probably violate the rules limiting off-season contact when they play pingpong in the locker room between meetings.

Such things can get pretty physical between 300-pounders.

And the guys on this team sometimes celebrate a nice pass deflection in a skeleton drill with congratulatory flying chest-bumps that show greater enthusiasm than some of the past Seahawks teams played with during games on Sundays.

Celebrations can be dangerous, too.

The reality is that if you put 22 Seahawks out on the field together with a ball, they’re going to go pretty hard even if it’s designated a non-contact drill.

These are reflexive, conditioned responses to competitive situations.

So the announcement that the NFL has fined and penalized the franchise and coach Pete Carroll for another violation of the rules against excessive contact during off-season workouts in June seems like the cost of doing business the Seahawks way.

But that cost will continue to rise if the message doesn’t get across.

And even if such untimely physical play is genetically coded, it’s breaking the rules — cheating.

I’m of the opinion that if a franchise uses the first 24 pages of its 2016 media guide congratulating itself for community involvement, charitable commitment and support of every good cause in the Pacific Northwest, it’s unseemly to repeatedly break the rules of its umbrella organization.

After getting fined and having some off-season practices docked in 2014 on the same rap sheet, the Seahawks are repeat offenders, and this time around the franchise has to fork over $400,000 and Carroll has to get into his pockets for $200,000.

The big thing is they lose a fifth-round draft pick in 2017. They’ve whiffed in that round at times, but they’ve also landed game-changers like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor with fifths.

So, the costs are significant.

But this is nowhere near “Gate” worthy. It’s not like “SpyGate” or “DeflateGate” … so don’t bother trying to start up “OTAGate”.

Carroll on Monday voiced his disappointment with the ruling, and recounted the moves made after the last penalty to correct the situation. They’ve had fewer contact practices, taken the players’ helmets off for more practices to discourage incidental contact, and had meetings and counseling on the topic.

Players from as recently as the last decade laugh at how pampered life is for the contemporary NFL player. But even though they kid about the Club Med training camps, they’re jealous. Many have had their futures jeopardized by injuries — particularly head trauma.

The move toward player safety is welcomed, in fact, belated. It was a focus of the players’ stance during negotiations of the latest collective-bargaining agreement.

They wanted fewer contact days and no double-sessions in training camp. The owners, on the other hand, wanted more money, and were eager to “give in” on anything safety-related because it had no effect on their wallets.

So, these no-contact rules were set up by the players to protect the players, and when the players violate them, the franchise pays for it. Weird, huh?

Although Carroll was $200,000 lighter, he took pride in stating the obvious to anybody who has seen his Seahawks play: “We always practice really hard around here.”

But it’s getting expensive. “We have to do it right,” he said. “We’ve made strong efforts to do that, but we’re still working at it.”

Finding the limits under the current statutes is a juggling act that hasn’t been mastered.

Somehow, they have to find a way to sustain the energy and competitive intent without the physical endangerment. Like so many of the new rules for contact during games, it’s hard to find the acceptable threshold.

For the Seahawks, it will start with clarifying the message.

Carroll is going to have to alter his motto to something like this: “Always compete — just sometimes don’t collide.”