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Seahawks must make a statement after suspensions

By Danny O’Neil

League rules prohibit the Seahawks from discussing the pending suspensions of their pair of cornerbacks.

That doesn’t mean they can’t respond, though. In fact, they must have an answer both in the short term without Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, and perhaps more importantly in the long term.

Brandon Browner (39) and Walter Thurmond (28), each facing NFL suspensions stemming from alleged substance abuse, are the latest Seahawks to run afoul of league policy. (AP)

This isn’t about prevention anymore, but consequences. For more than three years, the Seahawks have rebuilt this franchise in part with a willingness to offer second chances. Now, it’s time for coach Pete Carroll to show the limit to the franchise’s patience and optimism with a clear description of what is acceptable from his players.

This is not a call for the Seahawks to cut ties with either Thurmond and/or Browner. It’s not a demand for a pound of flesh for two soon-to-be free agents who’ve already cost themselves millions of dollars. This is about spelling out the team’s expectations for the players, which means this is one case where words will matter as much as actions. Seattle and its coach have to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not.

The NFL prohibits teams from talking about the details of the respective cases, but there’s nothing to prevent Carroll from using words like “disappointed” and “responsibility” to spell out what is expected from his players.

These suspensions are not the franchise’s fault. They are not Carroll’s fault. They are not something that could have been prevented by another team meeting. These are grown men we’re talking about, two professionals in their 20s who were in the league’s substance-abuse program and therefore absolutely had to know both the scrutiny they would face with up to eight random tests per month and the stakes of another mistake.

Now that they’re about to be suspended, the Seahawks are a punchline for the second consecutive year. That will fade with time, however. The bigger issue is about what this franchise will tolerate, and for the first time Seattle is dealing with repeat offenders, so to speak.

Thurmond had to test positive for what the league classifies as a substance of abuse at least twice to receive a four-game ban. Browner was previously suspended four games for PEDs, and now faces a year-long ban under the substance-abuse policy. He will be 30 by the time he’s eligible to play in the NFL again, and already there are reports he won’t be back with the Seahawks.

Thurmond is more than three years younger than Browner, and his suspension doesn’t necessarily spell the end of his career with Seattle nor should it. That doesn’t change the need for the Seahawks to make a clear statement regarding the incident.

In the past, Carroll has erred on the side of discretion when it comes to discussing the mistakes his players made, both on the field and off it. He needs to be more blunt this time to make the team’s expectations of its employees clear.