Three truths have emerged about Kam Chancellor’s holdout.
Coach Pete Carroll’s tone has definitely changed, 41 days in. He sure doesn’t see Chancellor as an “awesome Seahawk” right now, as he did when this saga began July 31.
Things are moving on the impasse for the first time in a month. Chancellor came out of his dug-in silence Wednesday to paint the differences with the only NFL team he has ever known to NFL Network as “petty.” It was more than coincidental Chancellor broke his silence a couple hours after Carroll said how disappointed — “very much so” — he and the Seahawks were in their team leader’s absence.
His fill-in at starting strong safety, Dion Bailey, is mighty confident about his pro debut Sunday, Seattle’s opener at St. Louis.
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Carroll struck first on Wednesday with a tone that was noticeably perturbed before the first full practice of 2015’s initial game week. The coach barely hid his disdain for this ordeal even existing into August, let alone September.
“He’s not here, and he’s not playing,” Carroll said, sounding as flat as a billiards table.
“He’s not here right now, so he’s not playing. That’s it. Today’s Wednesday.”
If Chancellor doesn’t report to the team before Sunday’s game, he will lose one game check. That’s $267,647 — 1/17th of his $4.55 million salary for 2015.
Wednesday night NFL Network reported Chancellor said this difference between his stance and the Seahawks’ is small.
“I exchanged messages with Kam Chancellor earlier today. He told me he feels this whole thing could be over by now,” NFL Network anchor Dan Hellie reported. “Kam said he’s been willing to meet the Seahawks halfway; he said the two sides (are) less than $1 million apart at this point. He actually used the term ‘petty.’
“So in a nutshell, he told me that he’s not asking for more money. He wants the money to be moved from the 2017 season to next year with no additional money this season.”
There are two sides to that point alone.
There are times between games he can barely walk yet still plays, and he played his last game, Super Bowl 49 in February, with a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee. Chancellor likely isn’t sure his older-than-27-years-old body will be able to play the three seasons that are remaining on the $28 million extension he signed before the 2013 season. He was the first of the Seahawks’ core players to get an extension.
Conversely, that’s the same reason the Seahawks didn’t guarantee him any years beyond this one at $4.55 million ($4.45 million of which is guaranteed). He is under contract for 2016 at a non-guaranteed $5.1 million and a non-guaranteed $6.8 million in ’17, and he now tells NFL Network he wants more like $9 million in ’16 and 2017 might as well be 2047 to him right now.
Yet the Seahawks don’t want to set the precedent of redoing a contract that has two seasons remaining beyond this one. General manager John Schneider knows if he does that for Chancellor, many veterans could justifiably line up outside the Schneider’s door wanting the same dispensation. The first in line would be defensive end Michael Bennett. He isn’t happy his deal is no longer among the league’s richest at his position, either, yet he’s with the team practicing and playing.
“I said, ‘Kam, what about redoing a contract that still has three years left?’ ” Hellie reported. “He told me he doesn’t want to wait until he’s almost 30.”
That’s the crux of this: Chancellor wants to earn all he can now and perhaps next year before he may not want — or be able — to play anymore.
Carroll was asked if the thumping strong safety and team leader decided to show up, say, Thursday, or as the bus to the airport is leaving for the team’s trip to St. Louis on Friday, or if Chancellor showed up next Monday, is there a too-late day for him to play in a game that week?
“I don’t know,” Carroll said, his tone still stern. “This is Wednesday. We’ll see what happens next. If this is Wednesday, I’m probably going to be speaking the same way next week.”
“Yeah, I am disappointed in this. Very much so. I think everybody should be because he’s been such a great part of this team. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this and he’s not here.”
Contrast that tone with this, what Carroll said about Chancellor on Day One of his holdout, when training camp began July 31:
“Kam Chancellor is an amazing Seahawk, part of this team. We love him in every way,” Carroll said then. “He stands for exactly what we want about this game, being a Seahawk, playing for us. And we want to make something happen. We’re going to try to figure it out as we go through it. Really we don’t see any of the other side of it. Kam Chancellor is a champion warrior football player, part of this team and one of the ultimate leaders on this team too, so we want to have him back. We’d love to have him back with us. He has his points. He’s got his thoughts. He’s a very smart guy. He’s thought this out and made it very clear the choice this time."
Carroll also said at the time that Chancellor’s holdout was not disruptive.
It’s beyond disruptive to Carroll and the Seahawks now, four days before the real games begin.
“Dion Bailey ... we are going to count on him to do the things that he does well (in Chancellor’s starting position),” Carroll said Wednesday.
“We are moving. We are ready to go.”
This time last year Bailey was an undrafted fourth-year junior linebacker out of USC, injured and on his way to an entire season on Seattle’s practice squad.
Now he’s going to be starting in the middle of what has been the league’s top-ranked defense the past two seasons, filling in for a three-time Pro Bowl strong safety.
He’s not exactly daunted.
Asked what he would do Sunday if he were the Rams and quarterback Nick Foles, Bailey smiled.
“I hope they plan to come at me. I mean, it would make my coming-out party a lot more exciting,” he said, beaming like the square diamond in the lobe of his right ear. “The more opportunities to make plays, the more play I’ll make.
“So if they plan to come at me, I hope they are just ready for the possibilities of that plan.”