It's been nearly two weeks since Seattle Seahawks defender Bruce Irvin "got popped" (Tacoma News Tribune)—according to head coach Pete Carroll—after the team's 2012 first-round pick tested positive for performance enhancers by the NFL.
In a world where stories like these are chewed up and spit out with an all too common regularity, I was surprised to see that reactions were fairly subdued from both the local and national press once the initial news of Irvin's suspension was reported.
On some levels, I suppose it makes sense.
For local writers, they can't afford to risk biting the hand that feeds them, so instead, it's easier to dance around the topic like Danny O'Neil did over at MYNorthwest.com or simply say nothing at all.
Meanwhile, beyond Sports Illustrated's Peter King giving us his passing thoughts in the immediate aftermath along with ESPN's Mike Sando sensing a pattern, I was surprised there wasn't more said about the suspension on a national level.
In some ways, I get the feeling that we've become numb to such stories.
"Bruce Irvin tested positive for what? Pffft, whatever."
Upon hearing the news, I initially found myself feeling quite annoyed with both Irvin and the organization. But then over the next few days, my feelings shifted towards a strange mixture of disappointment and apathy.
Most of this had to do with Pete Carroll's response that Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune shared early last week:
“We go beyond what the league does,” Carroll said. “We go well past what the guidelines ask us to do, as far as working with our young guys, trying to give them the direction, and trying to give them the counseling.
“We have people on staff that are here specifically to work with our individual guys, because I really see this as an individual challenge.”
But ultimately, Carroll believes that the player has to be held accountable and responsible for his actions.
“Unfortunately if you go wrong, you get popped,” Carroll said. “And that’s how this thing works. And I’m really disappointed that we have to deal with anything like this. But there’s going to be other issues, too. And we have to deal with them.
“For Bruce, we’re going to try and help him along as best as we possibly can. And he’s made an enormous commitment to try and do the right thing, and to try and be right. He made a mistake, and he admitted to it. And he owned up to his teammates. … He wants to do right, and show that he can. And we’re going to see that through.”
Read more here: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/2013/05/20/carroll-on-irvin-suspension-unfortunately-if-you-go-wrong-you-get-popped/#storylink=cpy
At times like these, Pete Carroll earns every penny he's paid because he says everything you think you want to hear while also weaving in gems like, "There's going to be other issues, too."
While I can imagine that managing dozens of players is a bit of a daunting task, I'd like to know from Carroll what these other issues are and whether we should be concerned?
Are we talking about Marshawn Lynch's never-ending DUI case or something entirely different?
Perhaps the person we should ask is general manager John Schneider.
In one of the more revealing interviews I've heard in some time, Schneider shared his thoughts on Irvin's suspension with SiriusXM Sports hosts Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon (via FieldGulls.com) while discussing a host of other topics surrounding the 'Hawks.
Yet what caught my attention was the following exchange:
On the number of failures..."does it surprise you?"
"Not surprised, I visit a lot of college campuses, and I hear what's going on there. So, no I'm not surprised."
Quite frankly, that wasn't the response I was expecting from the team's GM, but it begs the question, how many players need to test positive and be suspended for any of us—including the Seahawks as an organization—to really care?
Beyond the apologies, assurances and closed-door meetings, I'm not convinced the message is getting through.
I had hoped that the suspension of Brandon Browner—along with the overturned ruling on Richard Sherman late last season—would be the wake-up call the team needed to finally come clean, but Irvin's misstep kicked up the issue once again.
Sadly, I'm left to wonder, "Who is next?"
Do you think that Bruce Irvin is going to be the last player suspended?
If we take what Schneider said along with what Carroll hinted at—and perhaps include Richard Sherman's belief that half the NFL takes Adderall (ProFootballTalk.com)—then I'm afraid I have some serious doubts.
To me, Bruce Irvin's suspension means a lot more than the loss of a potential starter on defense for the first quarter of the 2013 season, as it makes me just a bit more leery of this roster and its long-term prospects.
Is this team built to last or simply set up to win now with little regard of the consequences?
What I really liked about this particular team, since Carroll and Schneider took over, is that it appeared that the 'Hawks were building something meaningful that we could all enjoy for the next several years. But now I'm not so sure.
Perhaps I'm being a bit too sentimental and should focus on the present instead while hoping that the team takes what Kam Chancellor and his fellow veterans discussed to heart (Yahoo ! Sports):
"We had our meeting -- the vets put a meeting together to talk to the guys about not making the same mistakes over and over," Chancellor said. "You know, we gotta grow up and move past that. So that's pretty much the message right now -- growing up and not making the same mistakes over and over."
At the end of the day, though, I'd imagine that Chancellor and the other leaders in the locker room know that talk is cheap, as actions speak louder than words.
Unlike past seasons, people will take notice, as the stakes are higher now. The 'Hawks are no longer rebuilding with the hopes of someday making the playoffs. This is a team looking to win the Super Bowl while sporting a huge target on its back, even without this issue hanging over it.
For any team to achieve what the Seahawks are setting out to accomplish, so many things need to fall into place, as there is little room for error.
Can they do it?
I think they have a decent shot, but everybody from Pete Carroll down to the last guy on the practice squad needs to either put up or shut up. Otherwise this potential dream season could end up a nightmare.