No team in the NFL has faced more punishment from the league for violations of offseason workout parameters than the Seattle Seahawks.
That’s not a list the Seahawks want to lead, but they are now bordering on serious penalties if they have another infraction.
New rules regarding offseason workouts were put in place with the current collective bargaining agreement that was approved before the 2011 season. During that time, there have been four violations of those offseason rules, according to the NFL.
Three of those belong to the Seahawks, including a penalty handed down earlier this week that led to a $200,000 fine for coach Pete Carroll , a $400,000 fine for the franchise and, most importantly, the loss of a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft. Two players collided and suffered head injuries going after a deflected pass during an organized team activity (OTA) session in June that requires no contact.
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The incidents that have led to Seattle’s three violations don’t appear egregious. But put them all together and they single out the Seahawks around their competitors.
“What other people are doing is really important to me right now,” Carroll said. “Obviously we’re going too far, so we have to find out how to reel in.”
Seattle was first penalized in 2012, again in 2014, and then this week. The only other team punished since the new labor agreement took effect was the Baltimore Ravens, who forfeited a week of OTAs for violating offseason workout rules. The Ravens were fined nearly $350,000 and coach John Harbaugh was docked more than $137,000.
But the Ravens’ penalties pale in comparison to what Seattle was hit with. And Carroll seems to understand why they were so severe as a repeat offender.
“We have to work harder to understand what everybody else is doing and just really staying within the lines that they think is right, and we have to find out,” he said. “We had the league come in to talk to our players and all that stuff, in the offseason again this year; we just have to do a better job.”
Seattle’s 2012 offense was for engaging in live contact during an offseason practice session. The team had to forfeit two OTA practices and an additional offseason workout date.
The 2014 offense drew the attention of everyone for who was involved. A scuffle broke out involving All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and wide receiver Phil Bates. The fight was caught by television cameras at the practice, which was open to the media, and quickly became national news.
Seattle had to forfeit two days of its mandatory minicamp the following June as a result of the excessive contact due to the fight. The team brought in personnel from the league in an attempt to learn how to properly run an offseason practice without violating rules.
Seattle went so far as to keep players from wearing helmets for much of its on-field time during OTAs for the past two years, trying to limit the impulse for contact. Carroll said the teaching goal was trying to create a simulation of what players would see.
“We tried to simulate what it looks like so runners see what it looks like; linebackers, DBs they see what it looks like. Everybody is orchestrating, in essence,” Carroll said. “This is the way we talk to them, (that) you’re going to dance together because it isn’t real football. So you have to fit together to make those looks, in that we’re simulating what football looks like.
“That’s not selling well. It’s not coming across well when they look at us. I have to adjust that, but that’s been the intent, is to make it look as much like it can look.”
Clearly, the process Seattle is trying to implement needs work. The club knows another violation could lead to a far heftier penalty.
“I thought we had it nailed two years ago. That’s why we repeated exactly the same way, but we have to do better. It isn’t right yet,” Carroll said.