Posted on August 23, 2016, by Travis Pulver
Pete Carroll has done a tremendous job in Seattle. He’s won a Super Bowl, made it to two, and has turned the team into a perennial contender. The front office thought enough of him to give him a nice contract extension not too long ago. Unless the team has an epic collapse over the next few years, he is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
If his tenure is going to stay on track, he might want to deal with his top defensive lineman, Michael Bennett before his behavior results in someone getting hurt. What did the big man do this time? He got in another fight during practice, his second of training camp–and this one got a little out of hand.
The incident occurred during one-on-one drills. Bennett didn’t like how Bradley Sowell had shoved Josh Shirley to the ground earlier in the drill. Sowell’s treatment of Shirley angered Bennett so much that when he got to face off with Sowell, he decided to teach Sowell a lesson–don’t mess with the defense.
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After teammates had separated the two, Bennett went after Sowell again. After they had been broken up a second time, Bennett decided to give his helmet a toss. Wide receiver Daniel Baldwin tried to talk to him in an effort to calm him down, but then Bennett went after him (PFT).
His behavior is inexcusable. Guys get beat in drills. It happens. Sometimes when it happens the guy that loses ends up on the ground—it’s part of the game. There is nothing malicious about it; it’s just one guy doing what he can to make sure he beats the other.
During camp, when guys are needing to do whatever they can to earn a job, making sure it is clear they beat their opponent is not a bad idea. Now if Sowell shoved Shirley after the whistle or when the drill was clearly over, then he is at fault. But the position coaches should haven taken care of him (if he did anything wrong).
If Bennett didn’t like something Sowell did, then the next time he faces off with him, he should have just beaten him so bad Sowell ended up in the dirt. Fighting someone wearing protective gear—like a football player does—is just a waste of time.
Not only is behavior inexcusable, but it’s a little suspect. Bennett later claimed that it was a player safety issue, and tried to make it sound like Sowell put Shirley at risk with the shove to the ground. So he gets in a fight? Shoves a wide receiver? Throws his helmet?
None of that sounds very safe. While Bennett is standing up for a fellow defensive lineman, he puts multiple teammates at risk with his behavior in the process.
After practice, he expressed no regret over the incident, but instead excused it by talking about “The Code:”
“There’s a code in the NFL,” Bennett said (ESPN). “There are a lot of problems with the NFL when it comes to injuries and concussions and stuff like that, but I feel like a lot of the time it’s the players that can really control what happens to each other.
“I think there is a code where we have to find that line of where it is where it becomes [more] about the other person’s safety than it is about the game. So that’s where it goes to about the person’s family. I think that’s the fine line in the NFL where you have to draw the line where we aren’t trying to injure each other but we are trying to win the game. So at the end of the day you always have to find that line.”
As a repeat offender, Pete Carroll should have dropped the hammer on him, but instead, he excuses Bennett’s reckless behavior:
“He’s just fighting for his own a little bit,” Carroll said of Bennett (ESPN). “One of the young guys got knocked around, and he was standing up for him. He’s got a lot of pride. He’s an incredible competitor, but he’s got to make sure he stays poised so he doesn’t get himself in trouble. So we had a good illustration of that today.”
Standing up for a teammate is good, but coaching him up so he can stand up for himself would have been better. Maybe Carroll needs to make that point to Bennett instead of justifying his poor behavior.