Walter Thurmond made an inexplicable mistake

Nov 25, 2013, 8:57 AM | Updated: 9:25 am

Vikings Seahawks Footbal27
Walter Thurmond will reportedly be suspended for an alleged violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Sometimes there’s no need for analysis or interpretation.

Sometimes all you can do is shake your head. Or grit your teeth. Or grunt in exasperation.

All three of those responses would be understandable, even appropriate, when it comes to the looming suspension of cornerback Walter Thurmond.

Not just because he plays a position where the Seahawks are already missing starter Brandon Browner, and not just because it mirrors the situation Seattle faced a year ago right down to the timing of the report. What makes this so very maddening is just how avoidable this was, because if Thurmond is going to be suspended under the NFL’s policy regarding substances of abuse as the league’s own TV network reported, well, then it almost certainly wasn’t his first slip-up. But we’ll get to the specifics of league protocol in a second.

Right now, there’s not all that much to say. At least not for the Seahawks. The team is forbidden from discussing the issue by the collective-bargaining agreement, which threatens a fine of $500,000. So coach Pete Carroll will say he can’t discuss it, the team will prep Byron Maxwell to step into the starting role outside with Jeremy Lane as the nickelback and perhaps reach out to Antoine Winfield, who was let go at the end of training camp.

So we’re left to wrestle with Thurmond’s situation, a reminder of how much the trajectory of an NFL season can fluctuate based on the judgment of men in their 20s, or more accurately, the lack of judgment. But before you go comparing Thurmond’s situation with the four-game suspensions of Browner and Bruce Irvin, not to mention the one against Richard Sherman that was overturned on appeal, it’s important to note a critical difference.

Those suspensions were levied under the policy against performance-enhancing substances, a program that stipulates a four-game suspension for a first violation.

Thurmond, according to the NFL Network, will be suspended under the league’s substance-abuse policy, which is entirely different. The details are important because a positive test for substances of abuse doesn’t call for a suspension. Instead, the first offense puts a player into the league’s substance-abuse program.

Once in the program, the player is subjected to as many as eight random urine tests a month, and he must notify the league before he leaves town and provide an address of where he’s going and must be available to provide a urine sample within four hours of being notified.

The scrutiny – and the stakes – could not be any clearer for the player. Once in the program, there’s no margin for error, and the fact four-game suspensions for substance abuse are rarer than they are for PEDs speaks to the effectiveness of the program.

It is also the reason that Thurmond’s suspension – if accurate – is nothing short of shocking. After three seasons overshadowed by injuries, Thurmond was just this year coming into his own. In training camp, he beat out Winfield for the job as Seattle’s third cornerback. He started the first two regular-season games when Browner was out with a hamstring injury, and Thurmond is the reason that Browner’s potentially season-ending groin injury wasn’t inspiring hand wringing.

Last week, Thurmond returned an interception for the first touchdown of his NFL career, and now he may miss most of the final month of this season because of a mistake. Well, probably more than one.

This wasn’t about the culture of Seattle’s team or its leadership or the lack of understanding about NFL rules. The nature of the league’s substance-abuse program makes it certain that Thurmond had ample warning and understanding.

And at this point, there’s nothing left to say. You just shake your head. Or grit your teeth. Or grunt. This is a mistake that’s tougher to understand than it is to explain.

Brock and Salk podcast

Brock and Salk

Seahawks Rams...
Brent Stecker

K.J. Wright: How Seahawks fixed early run D issue vs Rams

Former Seahawks Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright breaks down the change Seattle made after a shaky first defensive series in their win over the Rams.
22 hours ago
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
Brent Stecker

ESPN’s Riddick thinks Seahawks’ Carroll knew all along they were good

ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Louis Riddick was around the Seahawks in the preseason, and he saw a "twinkle in the eye" of Pete Carroll at the time.
2 days ago
Seahawks Tariq Woolen...
Brandon Gustafson

Seahawks’ Carroll: Tariq Woolen has ‘legitimate chance’ to be dominant

Seahawks rookie CB Tariq Woolen came away with his sixth interception on Sunday. Pete Carroll discussed Woolen's play and sky-high potential.
2 days ago
Mariners offseason Tyler O'Neill...
Mike Salk

Salk: 10 options for the Mariners to complete their outfield

The Mariners have made three notable additions, and the fourth should be an outfielder. Mike Salk breaks down who the targets could be.
3 days ago
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Brandon Gustafson

Carroll: Importance of Seahawks’ win over Rams, Geno’s big finish

On the latest Pete Carroll Show, the Seahawks coach discussed his team's win over the Rams and the play and mentality of QB Geno Smith.
3 days ago
UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr...
Brandon Gustafson

Huard: Why UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. is returning for 1 more year

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. surprised many with the news he's returning to school for 2023. Brock Huard explains why that's happening.
3 days ago
Walter Thurmond made an inexplicable mistake