By Nick Shook
If there really is a growing rift inside Seattle’s locker room, there’s an equally significant standard of publicly brushing these things off as nonsense.
In the aftermath of an ESPN The Magazine piece that detailed a strained relationship between Seattle’s offensive and defensive players dating back before Super Bowl XLIX, we’ve heard the focus of the story, cornerback Richard Sherman, respond. We’ve heard a less direct and longer-winded answer from receiver Doug Baldwin. And on Friday, we received replies from coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson.
“I think it was an old story that was revisited, I don’t even know where all the stuff came from,” said Carroll, who was quoted in Seth Wickersham’s story. “I would say this, I’ve said to you guys before that the big wins are just as hard as the big losses. Our first Super Bowl was a challenge to get back from. Our second Super Bowl was a challenge to get back from. That’s just how it is.
“That impact that you notice … you don’t make it back to where you’ve been. … I’m proud of where we are, how we’ve handled our past. That article makes reference to something that’s years old now. This time a year, if you guys want to keep talking about it, you can. It’s not a big deal to us at all.”
Much of Sherman’s ire is centered on how he believes Carroll shields Wilson, the franchise quarterback, and others from the standard the defense has created and to which it holds itself, according to the story. Carroll said he does play favorites — with every man wearing blue and green.
“I show favoritism to every one of these guys,” Carroll said. “Every one. I’m trying to … help them out as best as I can. I think we’re doing OK at doing that. Each person is different. Where they have to fit into the team and maintain the team expectations, standards, I’ve got to make sure to hold them to all of that. Individually I keep those guys as well as I can to what they need and how it fits them.
“In terms of Russell, we’ve raised Russell from a neophyte in this program, and he’s done an extraordinary job with us. He’s a great competitor and a great worker. … I can say that about Richard and Bobby (Wagner) and K.J. (Wright). They’re all different, they’re all unique and I think they all call for it.”
Wilson was also asked about it and went directly in the opposite direction, showering his teammate with praise and even complimenting his parenting skills.
“I think Richard Sherman‘s one of the best teammates I could ever ask for,” Wilson said. “I think that in terms of his work ethic, in terms of the way he practices — I’m not sure, has he ever missed a practice? I don’t know if he’s ever missed a practice. I mean I think that his work ethic, his timely nature in games obviously making big plays, his mentality.
“I think that he’s a good dad too as well … Those are the things that I know. So I think that he’s a great teammate. I think that he’s going to be a Hall of Fame cornerback too as well. So I’m glad he’s on our team.”
It’s incredibly unlikely for an active Seahawk — unless that person desperately wants to be shipped out — to publicly acknowledge validity in what Wickersham wrote. We aren’t going to get confirmation. But the range of the answers we’ve received — Sherman denying it as rumors, Baldwin avoiding a definitive response, Carroll going chalk with his all-positive and that’s-in-the-past answer and Wilson turning in the opposite direction — at least makes one wonder.
But, as Around the NFL’s Marc Sessler wrote, if players are bent out of shape over Wilson receiving favored treatment, it has yet to sink the ship. Seattle is again positioned to content for the NFC West and the conference title, even after weathering offseason trade talks involving Sherman. Come September in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks will again take the field with one of the league’s best defenses and an offense that’s looking to improve as Seattle aims to build upon a division title.