By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – Football coaches usually mean what they say.
They don’t, however, always say what they mean.
Sometimes you need to read between the lines. Either that or understand Pete Carroll’s unique brand of speech, which is filled with superlatives and run-on sentences. So here’s a transcript of what Seattle’s coach said after Monday’s practice followed by a best-guess interpretation of what was meant. Keep in mind that no translation is perfect and that this translator specifically has been working with Carrollese only since 2010.
What Carroll said: “It’s a big day for us today … We’ve put together a terrific group that we’re really excited about. This was an extremely competitive camp and really all through the OTAs and really we had some great battles, and so it’s exciting. We look forward to getting the season started. Imagine after all this time, we finally get started. It seems like we started a long time ago, but we don’t start until this week so we’re fired up about it, guys are looking forward to getting ready with this game plan.”
What Carroll meant: You know all that hand wringing that’s been done over which players we would keep on the 53-man roster? Well, that was just the beginning of the hard part. Now comes the season, and it’s about to get really real. For real.
Question: Of those guys who didn’t practice today, are there any who you don’t expect to play on Sunday?
What Carroll said: “That’s a really complicated way of asking me what?”
What Carroll meant: If you think I’m going to stand up here six days before we play our season-opener at Carolina and offer up gift-wrapped injury news when the league doesn’t mandate we provide an injury report until Wednesday, well, you must not think very much of me. You’re at least going to have to ask about the players one by one because I’m not going to do your work for you.
“We’re a little bit knocked around there at the D-line spot,” coach Pete Carroll said of the decision to trade for defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith. “We’ve got to make sure we have a guy that can play.” (AP)
Question: Can you rule anybody out right now?
What Carroll said: “No. We’ll find out on Wednesday who’s practicing and then we’ll see how the guys make it through the week.”
What Carroll meant: If you think I’m going to stand up here six days before we play our season-opener at Carolina and offer up gift-wrapped injury news, well, I think you get the idea I’m not going to do that, right?
Question: How has D’Anthony Smith adjusted on the first day?
What Carroll said: “Well, I can’t tell you that other than he made it through practice today. I don’t know enough. I heard he had a nice win down in pass rush. He picks stuff up really quickly so that was good. We could tell from the meetings we had with him.”
What Carroll meant: He arrived from Jacksonville intact and did not break over the course of his first practice with us. This is good news compared to the alternative, but one practice probably isn’t enough for me to make a definitive judgment on where he fits. Also, he’s going to look really good getting off the bus. That’s a sizeable slice of humanity right there.
Question: What did you see in Smith that prompted his acquisition?
What Carroll said: “We’re looking for a little depth here and a guy who could battle for us. We liked his movement. He could understand our system, kind of been indoctrinated a little bit through his other camp. He looked active enough that he could help us, and he’s healthy and fit. We’re a little bit knocked around there at the D-line spot. We’ve got to make sure we have a guy that can play.”
What Carroll meant: Not sure if you noticed, but we’ve got four other defensive tackles on the roster and three of those guys were not practicing. Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel sat out with groin injuries, and while they should be back practicing Wednesday, Jordan Hill might be a little further away. So the fact that Smith was able to get out on the practice field was a significant plus in that regard. Also, he’s going to look really good getting off the team bus.
Question: You guys were pretty quiet the day after cut day compared to the first couple of years when you were making all the secondary moves.
What Carroll said: “We burned the candle up here, now. John (Schneider) and his guys worked it late. We looked at every single guy that came across the wire that might have a chance, and we’re really happy with the guys that we kept, and we weren’t as active. To be so competitive, it was verified by all the guys that wound up in other people’s camps. A lot of guys on other practice squads and on the active rosters as well. There were a lot of good football players that had to get out of here. It was hard for us to go out and look and find somebody that could take anybody’s spot. But John busted it to find that, to get to that point.”
What Carroll meant: Don’t think we didn’t try. We looked. And we’ll keep looking.
Question: How tough was it to lose Chris Harper, who signed with the 49ers after briefly being back on your practice squad?
What Carroll said: “Well, we were fortunate enough to get him back on the practice squad. That’s the gamble that you take and they picked up a good football player.”
What Carroll meant: Well, it wasn’t so tough a loss that we were willing to put him on the 53-man roster and prevent the possibility that he would head elsewhere, if that’s what you’re asking.
Question: How tough was the decision to let fullback Mike Robinson go?
What Carroll said: “We had a lot of tough decisions, and Mike was one of them. Mike has been with us for a long time. All of these guys that left hurt us in a sense because they had bought in and given us everything they had, and Mike was a very instrumental guy in this football team as we were coming along. They were all tough decisions.”
What Carroll meant: Well, it wasn’t so tough a loss that we were willing to keep him on the roster, and I don’t mean that to be callous or dismissive. Mike Robinson was a very important member of this team for the past three seasons, but right now, this month and this season, he wasn’t the best option at fullback for our team. And just like Chris Harper wasn’t guaranteed a spot because of where he was drafted, Robinson wasn’t guaranteed a spot because of what he has done. That’s the tough side of this business, and make no mistake, it is a business.
Question: After all the talk about how tough it was going to be to make the roster, you’ve got 16 players on the 53-man roster who are new to the team this year.
What Carroll said: “It’s just exciting that we’re able to find guys that could upgrade and take spots. I think it’s more indicative of the guys that aren’t here that went to other places to demonstrate how competitive it was. We’re all about what we say: ‘Compete.’ Those guys earned their way. They earned their spots. They battled through it so that makes this tougher and hopefully makes us a little bit better and we’ll see what happens. The results of the camp and OTAs and offseason and preseason to get to this point has all been about the competition and that won out.”
What Carroll meant: If we had not made a single addition in the offseason, all of you standing here would have still expected us to make the playoffs given the youth of our roster and the presence of a rising young quarterback in Russell Wilson. We wouldn’t make those additions unless we thought it would do anything other than make us better.