If you want to understand, at least in some ways, the dynamics of the Seattle Seahawks locker room and why Percy Harvin was fitted to an ejector seat, you need to go to another place in time: November 2005 in Philadelphia.
There was a brawl that occurred between then-Eagle Terrell Owens and former Eagle Hugh Douglas, who was working as an analyst for a Philadelphia radio station. Douglas was still popular in the locker room, and he became incensed upon hearing that Owens, again, was being disrespectful toward quarterback Donovan McNabb.
There are many versions of what happened in that fight, which became a part of recent Eagles lore. The core aspect of it is that Douglas felt Owens was crossing the line with how he treated McNabb so he decided to defend the veteran quarterback.
"In that locker room, there were battle lines being drawn," Douglas remembered in an interview. "It was T.O. versus Donovan. People were starting to draw lines in the sand. I was out of line, but I wanted to defend Donovan."
The Eagles would suspend Owens over the fight, and eventually he would be gone.
"If someone is talking bad about your quarterback," Douglas said, "they [have] to go. Period. The quarterback, through thick and thin, has to be the guy."
In Seattle, though many people may deny this, there was a similar dynamic between Wilson and Harvin.
While reports like this one from ESPN's Chris Mortensen suggest Wilson wanted to help Harvin through his anger issues, one Seahawks player said the biggest reason the team traded the wide receiver was his increasing animosity toward Wilson. The player said Harvin was an accelerant in a locker room that was quickly dividing between Wilson and anti-Wilson.
Again, people will deny this, but there's truth to it.
The main issue some players seem to have with Wilson is they think he's too close to the front office, which is the same ridiculous thing some said about McNabb. How anyone could have a problem with Wilson—one of the best players in the sport and one of its best citizens—is unfathomable to me, but that's the case.
There is also a strictly football issue here with Wilson. I'm told he doesn't always take the blame with teammates for mistakes he makes. In Wilson's mind, a bad throw isn't always his fault.
There is also an element of race that needs to be discussed. My feeling on this—and it's backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players—is that some of the black players think Wilson isn't black enough.
This, again, was similar to the situation with McNabb. And this, again, will be denied by Seattle people. But there is an element of this.
This is an issue that extends outside of football, into African-American society—though it's gotten better recently. Well-spoken blacks are seen by some other blacks as not completely black. Some of this is at play.
The Seahawks are among the best-run organizations in all of sports. Pete Carroll is the best in the NFL at making a locker room full of different types of personalities blend well. The only coaches I've covered who were better than Carroll at that were Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells.
For the Seahawks organization to get rid of a guy they gave up a first-, third and seventh-rounder to essentially get back a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (conditional draft pick in 2015) means there was something seriously amiss. This was no ordinary personality conflict.
Manish Mehta @MMehtaNYDN
Seahawks learned of Harvin trade b4 boarding team bus. I'm told Marshawn Lynch, close to Harvin, went off & almost didn't get on bus #nyj10/18/2014, 2:49:33 PM
Second, if there is no respect for a quarterback, an offense can wither and die. In many ways, an entire team can. That is the power of the position.
And that might be the biggest lesson taught by the trade of Harvin.
2. Dwight Freeney-Peyton Manning
One day, both Dwight Freeney and Peyton Manning will be in the Hall of Fame. For years, for many years, they were Indianapolis Colts teammates. This week, on Thursday night between the Broncos and Chargers in Denver, they will be enemies.
"It's going to be a really strange ordeal," Freeney said. "I went against him in practice so many times but never got to hit him."
Then Freeney laughed. "Now I get to hit him."
Freeney said he's going to treat this game like any other, like he's going against a division opponent. He knows Manning well. He enjoyed playing with him, but he won't treat this game like it's a reunion.
Will he give his defense tips on playing Manning?
"You stay away from that," Freeney said. "First, because I could tell the defense something about him that could be wrong. But also because he knows that I know that he knows. You don't want to play that game."
What's Freeney's favorite Manning story? "I can't repeat any of them," he laughed again. "Locker room stuff."
"The thing about Peyton is that while he's such a great pro, he's one of the biggest pranksters of all time," Freeney said
And the prank he pulled on Freeney?
"Oh no," Freeney said, "he never got me. I knew what to look out for."
You can bet Freeney will know what to look out for Thursday as well.
3. John Elway always wanted Manning
A few more Peyton Manning notes after my trip to Denver ...
It's important to remember as we watch Manning destroy record books that after the Colts let him go, and following the surgery on his neck, there were NFL team executives who believed Manning would never play football again.
There were. They did their research, and more than a few came to the conclusion that his NFL career was finished. Several general managers told me this specifically.
Only a handful of teams believed otherwise. The two biggest pursuers of Manning were the 49ers and Broncos. Hilariously and incredulously, Jim Harbaugh has tried to deny this, but Manning was thisclose to being a 49er.
John Elway always believed in Manning and was always convinced that the veteran quarterback still had a lot left. It's important to remember that now as we watch Manning break records and probably make another trip to the Super Bowl.
4. Manning, the ultimate professional
A Broncos teammate on Peyton Manning: "He is very demanding. Sometimes crazy demanding. When you play with him, he wants you to know everyone else's job on the offense. He tests you mentally all the time. He pushes you mentally. He pushes you places, in your head, that you never thought you'd reach. I understand the game better because of him. He's a pain in the ass to play with, but that's why he's so great and makes you great."
5. Chargers center says team confuses Manning
Last note on Manning. I found this interesting, from Chargers center Nick Hardwick, who said the San Diego defense confuses Manning when he plays them. This doesn't qualify as trash-talking, but it's close, and trust me—Manning will see this quote and take it as a challenge.
Hardwick told XTRA 1360 Fox Sports San Diego:
We've got a great record against Peyton Manning. Our defense causes him problems. I don't think his vision—he doesn't necessarily trust his vision when he goes against us, because he doesn't know exactly what he's looking at, which is hard to say for Peyton Manning, because he in general knows exactly what he's looking at. But when you make up your mind to do something, you can get out there, and they [the Chargers defense] can make it happen on a short week.
6. "Ray Rice will be radioactive for a long time"
The Ray Rice appeal hearing is set for Nov. 5. It's possible he could be reinstated in time for this season.
But in interviews with several NFL team executives, it sounds like no team would sign the running back because, as one said, "Ray Rice will be radioactive for a long time."
That ugly video will stick to Rice for some time. That video would also stick to any team that signs him.
NFL teams make cold and calculating decisions all the time based on talent. If Rice was still talented, a team might take the risk this season or next, but he isn't.
I don't believe Rice will play this season, and I don't think he'll play again in the NFL. No team will view the potential distraction and public relations hit worth the risk of signing a declining back.
But what about Mike Vick? He came back into the NFL straight from Leavenworth.
There were no pictures of Vick torturing dogs. There is video of Rice. That's a big difference.
7. Harvin and Rex Ryan
Could Harvin save Rex Ryan's job?
If Harvin can somehow manage not to cause yet another team to jettison him, and he can be that explosive player we all know he is, the answer, according to NFL team executives, is yes.
The thinking is Ryan, armed with a new weapon (albeit one that tends to self-implode), gets one more year to turn the offense around.
When three NFL team executives were asked about Ryan's job security, two felt the addition of Harvin potentially helped Ryan, while one said it wouldn't make a difference.
8. For whom the Bell tolls
From sports journalist Matt Edwards:
Matt Edwards @MattEdwards
Le'Veon Bell is the first player in #Steelers history to open the season with 100 yards from scrimmage in each of the first seven games.10/21/2014, 1:42:18 AM
Not exactly DeMarco Murray passing Jim Brown but still impressive.
9. Here comes the Johnny Manziel talk…again
You knew it was coming eventually. The minute Brian Hoyer didn't play well—boom—the Johnny Manziel chatter would increase from Browns fans. And it has.
But Manziel won't be a starter anytime soon, I'm told. Sources I trust tell me the only way Manziel sees the field as a starter is if the Browns have a total collapse this week.
Now, in the past, "Browns" and "collapse" went together like cornflakes and milk. But I don't think these Browns are like past Browns. There won't be a collapse, and we're not going to see Manziel start anytime soon.
Will he play at all? That's possible. But again, it all depends on what happens this week against the Raiders.
10. Patriots' division dominance
Of all the impressive records set during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, the Patriots are on the verge of setting one of their most impressive marks: They are just three victories away from 19 consecutive home wins against division opponents.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.
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