Mike Williams, Justin Forsett and Raheem Brock all played a key role in helping the Seahawks win the division and have continued to make noise through the media this offseason, but under varying circumstances.
The uncommon nature of the 2011 NFL offseason has influenced the unique media coverage surrounding the situation; hindered in their efforts to work on the field during the offseason, players and coaches have embarked upon new opportunities to connect with fans and NFL peers through the use of the media and social media.
In the near future I will analyze some key Seahawks and their off-the-field, offseason performances to this point. My focus will come from a sociological perspective, in an attempt to understand the effects of players’ actions on more than just a surface level.
My analyses focused on the Totem and Panopticism have been primarily looking at the team and organization as a whole. These next analyses will focus mainly on the individual and the potential effects of their offseason actions, but will conclude with the focus moving back to the team and organization.
With "no" communication between coaches and players, some players have taken the reins in leading their club this offseason; others have made the news in more fortuitous roles. Let’s examine this Seahawks trio and their offseasons a little more closely.
Mike Williams—Finding salvation through hard work
Mike Williams’ NFL comeback with Seattle has been well documented. The former Top 10 pick ran himself out of the league after the 2007 season and returned in 2010 to catch 65 passes for Seattle.
However, despite his comeback success, Williams has maintained this offseason that 2010 was just the beginning, as he needs to improve all aspects of his game. In this interview after the unofficial organized workout, Williams makes it clear that he understands hard work and dedication to his craft are crucial in his quest to prove himself. As he explained to ESPN’s Mike Sando:
"There were a lot of plays I left out there that could have made a good season great. People are caught up in the story. I was never caught up in the story. I see a top No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in the league every year in Fitz [Larry Fitzgerald]. I have to make my own noise."
Williams once played the part of a man not upholding his duty as an NFL star in the making, now showing a stark contrast through his devotion to proving himself.
His tireless work ethic (shown by five- to six-hours of cardio a day in various capacities) and continual spoken dedication towards improving, shows a drive and personal conquest that appears to go beyond economics or fame; Williams has begun to respond to his calling as a pro football player.
I’d like to further highlight Williams’ change in attitude using sociologist Max Weber’s theories surrounding “the calling,” these particular ideas published in 1905.
Weber explains that the idea of “the calling” creates a sound mindset for economic success, as a devotion to one's commercial interests coupled with economically rational ideas can create a machine-like system. “… [T]he essential elements of the attitude termed ‘the spirit of capitalism' are precisely those which we found to be content of the puritan asceticism of the calling, only without the religious foundation...”
Puritan asceticism discourages consumption for future prosperity; not a fight against wealth and profit, but rather against the temptations associated with them, the goal being future wealth and prosperity.
That moral devotion, if driven into the social fabric of an economy, potentially leads to economic success. As long as the individual stays within reasonable moral boundaries when pursuing the calling, it is one’s duty to pursue commercial interests. Weber believed the devotion of the calling could be successful if placed in the right economic system.
Back to Mike Williams. He is a classic example of proving not to be capable of abiding by the set of principles needed to succeed in the NFL—temptations associated with being an NFL star overrode the actual duty needed to attain those temptations.
Now, he’s driven by the goal of redeeming his wrong doing; driven by a hunger that’s only filled through NFL success, as per his offseason comments—Williams described boredom as seeing two movies in the same day, before 7 PM.
Weber noted that "the Puritans wanted to be men of the calling"; Williams is struggling without the ability to demonstrate his devotion to becoming an NFL star, which would be practicing with his team and coaches for the 2011 season.
But on his own, admittedly lonely at times without football, he has been devoted to preparing himself for when the time comes, currently answering the calling of pundits and deflecting old temptations during the most uncertain of times.
Justin Forsett and Raheem Brock play the role of offseason, locker room communicators
With the advancements in technology, players have become more creative in their method of communication with the general public during the lockout—Williams' sense of humor and humility has begun to gain the liking of the media.
The discontentment, boredom and general confusion surrounding the lockout has been presented through the media in a variety of ways. Given the volatility in conjunction with the lockout, the content released has been unusually charged at times in comparison to the run-of-the-mill offseason.
Two Seahawks who have made use of social media this offseason are Justin Forsett and Raheem Brock. Their use of the mechanism, however, was for different purposes and carried a different tune.
Before highlighting the contrast between their uses in media, I’d like to introduce an idea coined “the men of letters” to the discussion; the term explained by Alexis de Tocqueville in his work highlighting the shift in power during the French revolution.
The term refers to a group of social intellectuals that had an influence on the change in social structure during the time of the Revolution, though their conquest started as powerless men. “…[N]one of the men of letters held posts of any kind, none was invested in authority...”—but they theorized as if one or both were true.
While this group lacked real power, they had the advantage of unveiling radical ideas when the national government was fragmented. In place of politicians who were serving their personal self interests, “the men of letters” were the voice of public opinion.
The result: They not only imparted their revolutionary ideas upon society, but also shaped the national temperament and outlook on life.
Back to the 2011 offseason. As Mike Sando highlights, Justin Forsett used social media as the main tool for organizing the workout at the University of Washington, his actions out of a desire for camaraderie and a need to begin working through the transition into a new offense.
Forsett is a player that has consistently fought to stay on a roster since the start of his career, a seventh-round pick by Seattle in 2008 who has displayed a "team first" toughness that has quietly placed him in a budding leadership role for the Seahawks; he is a true "man of letter" for them.
While Forsett used the media to assert leadership, Brock teamed with Seahawks free agent lineman Chester Pitts to create a crank call video reel aimed at Commissioner Goodell; some of the pranks hilarious, others up for interpretation. Chester Pitts did later say “no malice” was intended.
As a 2010 "man of letter" for Seattle, Brock was asserting a public opinion of the players in the locker room, also intended to represent other NFL players.
Unfortunately, Brock made news late last week after being arrested in Philadelphia for skipping out on a $27 bar tab and resisting arrest—some foggy details of the incident not important for the focus here—an unexpected twist to Brock's offseason.
As this is an exploration, I would like to offer a few thoughts on how Brock and Forsett are connected to the "men of letters" concept and, as a result, may effect the Seahawks roster composition.
Forsett is obviously attempting to take a leadership role for the team in the offseason, willing to help shape the temperament of the Seahawks' offseason workouts. The NFL is currently fragmented and Forsett has taken the role of publicly showing the Seahawks' desire to practice as a team, at the most premier of facilities—Brock was not a part of the attendance list provided by the Seattle PI.
As for Brock, I personally do not know how the Seahawks organization perceived the video or his recent actions. Brock was an attitude setter for the defense in 2010, improving his play in the second half of the season when needed most—he had a career year in 2010, his first away from Indianapolis, but only signed a one-year deal in Seattle.
His on field leadership and performance could make him a lead candidate for a new contract in 2011, but unfortunately he now has been arrested twice in less than a year.
Forsett has been a positive factor in a variety of roles for this team in his three-year career, and has proven that he is focused on aiding the transition to a new offense in 2011. He is consistently described as one of the toughest players on the team.
When asked during a Seattle Times chat last season which teammate he would want watching his back in a fight, Mike Williams responded (scroll to the bottom of the chat) “Easy, Justin Forsett.”
Brock had a career year in 2010, but his offseason has question marks in comparison to the directed Forsett.
They have played differing roles as “men of letters” in the offseason. Are we witnessing part of the transition among the tough, vocal leaders in the Seahawks locker room?
Are Williams and Forsett ready to fill the void that would be left by Brock's potential departure as a free agent, or is Brock too valuable to a Seahawks defensive line that can lose as many as six players from last year's roster, his attitude one the Seahawks are not yet prepared to lose?
These questions will be answered once the lockout is lifted, when the transition into 2011 officially continues for the Seahawks. The next piece in the series will take a closer look at some of the potential transitions at major positions heading into next season. Stay tuned.