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Will off-the-field issues derail the Seahawks’ season?


By Danny O’Neil

The Seahawks’ offseason could be made to sound like an episode of “Cops”.

Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna’ do when a first-round pick is suspended four games and then a backup quarterback is released after a DUI arrest.

Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna’ do when the star running back is headed toward a criminal trial in California and the third-year offensive lineman has been banned from the local mall.

If only it was as funny as it sounds when you sing it.

Instead, those incidents are symptoms of a larger problem that could potentially undermine this season of such heightened expectations in Seattle. After all, this is a team that has shown a willingness to draft players who’ve had personal setbacks before, whether it’s having been in trouble with the law, the league or even their former teams.

Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have taken some chances on players with checkered pasts like Marshawn Lynch. (AP)

When running back Marshawn Lynch was arrested and charged with DUI last year in California – a case that has yet to be resolved – there were plenty of people who weren’t exactly surprised. After all, he had been suspended for three games with Buffalo in 2009 after he was charged with a weapons possession.

Seattle drafted defensive end Bruce Irvin No. 15 overall in 2012, choosing him less than two months after he was arresting for knocking a sign off a food-delivery vehicle. Now, he will be suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances after taking what is believed to be the same drug that triggered the positive test results for cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman last year.

Throw in the fact that quarterback Josh Portis was let go after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence earlier this month while guard John Moffitt missed Tuesday’s workout to attend a district-court hearing in Bellevue relating to a trespassing charge and it’s easy to start painting a picture of a team full of troublemakers.

But easy portrait doesn’t equate to an accurate one. None of the issues rise to the level of a felony, and you don’t have the same players with the same offenses. That’s not an attempt to minimize the mistakes let alone excuse them, but to put them in perspective.

The arrests, suspensions and citations are the symptoms of a problem at this time, but it’s how the franchise in general – and coach Pete Carroll in particular – shepherd the locker room that will determine the severity of the issue.

Are these mistakes that the entire locker room will learn from? If so, this past month will be chalked up as the indiscretions of a young team that is still maturing. If these incidents foreshadow more trouble to come, well, this will be seen as the warning signs of a flaw in Seattle’s approach.

You can’t say the problems come entirely out of the blue. The Seahawks have shown a willingness to take on players deemed character risks elsewhere. Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo when Seattle traded for him in 2010 while Irvin was a high-school dropout who had gone to college only after two years essentially spent on the streets in Georgia.

Under Carroll, Seattle has prided itself in being a franchise that will give someone a second chance, but it has also been a team that has shown the opportunities for redemption are not infinite, whether it was cutting running back LenDale White after 35 days or cutting receiver Mike Williams one season into a three-year contract extension he signed.

The question isn’t how much the Seahawks will tolerate nearly so much as whether it can get its young roster to mature and grow out of the mistakes that these players are making.

Carroll’s two previous stints as an NFL head coach were characterized – fairly or not – by a lack of attention to detail, and his historic run of success at USC ended when he left the school in the midst of an NCAA investigation that landed the Trojans in the NCAA hoosgow.

Everyone will be watching to see how he’s able to steer this team that is considered one of the league’s most talented out of an offseason that has begun to sound like a reality television show filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement.