[Adapted from this Tylerpedia post yesterday.]
We care. And it makes a big difference to us. And our guys know that.
So when they say ‘we let [the Seahawks players] be themselves’ — I told them this weekend, we don’t let them be themselves, we celebrate them being themselves, and we cheerlead for them to be themselves, and we try to bring out the very best that they have to offer.
- Pete Carroll, at about the 15:38 mark of this video.
Pete Carroll is telling the truth. No major pro sports organization has shown a commitment to the well-being and authenticity of its players like the Seattle Seahawks. Read this Alyssa Roenigk piece from August if you haven't. A relevant portion:
AT THE NFL Rookie Symposium in June, Chris Ballard steps to the podium. Ballard, the director of player personnel for the Chiefs, has a harsh message for the recent draft picks. "Most of you will not be in this league three years from now," he begins. Later, he adds, "Nobody cares about your problems. The fans don't care. The media doesn't care. And ownership doesn't care. They care about results."
These words are spoken seven months after a Kansas City player, Jovan Belcher, shot his girlfriend nine times, then drove to the team facility and killed himself in the parking lot. But in what remains a suck-it-up NFL culture, that speech could have been delivered by almost anybody in the league.
"He was treating them exactly how they feel, like objects," says Jimmy Stewart, a licensed family therapist who works with athletes and military personnel dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Stewart is a former defensive back with the Saints and Lions, and when he left the league in 1980 he was an emotional wreck and an alcoholic. "The four years I played pro football were some of the most horrendous of my life," he says. "I cried alone. I was frightened. I badly needed somebody to talk to, and I know so many guys today who feel the same way."
After retiring, Stewart earned a master's degree in counseling and went on a crusade to improve the mental health of athletes. In the past few years, he has lobbied the NFL and several teams, including the Chiefs and Saints, to embed psychologists within their coaching staffs, similar to what the military does. He says that his calls largely go unreturned and that even when teams do call him back, he is often met with arrogance and a "we're doing enough" attitude. So when Stewart hears details of what's happening in Seattle, he begins to cry.
"Talking about concussions is important, but players are not committing suicide just because they have CTE," he says. "They are committing suicide because they refuse to be vulnerable. CTE can cause symptoms of depression, but it's isolation and invulnerability that causes you to commit suicide. With Belcher, the only way you have a chance with him is if every day you have a coach and a psychologist asking, 'How are you feeling today?'"
In Seattle, there's an entire staff expressly designed to look out for players.
I've said/written the next graf many times since Pete Carroll took over and I’m about to write a piece that touches on it. I try to avoid if-thens but this is the best way I have to put this:
If you like The Greatest HD Sport on Earth and you want it to continue being something that you can support in good conscience, you want a Pete Carroll Coaching Tree in the NFL. Root for the Seahawks so that their staff gets raided and Darrell Bevell, Dan Quinn, and Tom Cable get head coaching gigs [joining Gus Bradley, who runs the allofasudden respectable Jaguars similarly].
Dan Quinn might be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The Cleveland Browns employ one Davone Bess. Davone Bess might be in serious trouble.
Even if Bess’ troubling recent history isn’t as bad as it looks, he could use a support system like Seattle’s, because we all could. I wish my workplace had someone looking out for me like the Seahawks do.
This is arguably the most dangerous and inarguably the most profitable sports league on the planet.
You want people who care about players on that wall. You need people who care about players on that wall.