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The Seahawks Have Issues, but Pete Carroll Is Holding Them Together

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 2, 2017

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll speaks during a press conference at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The player's quote gets right to the point and is one of the most revealing I've heard on what's really going on with the terrific and volatile Seahawks.

"I think Pete has kept a bunch of civil wars from breaking out."

He was referring to Pete Carroll, the head coach of the team. 

The player said Carroll has put out far more fires in the Seattle locker room than anyone on the team will ever admit—at least on the record. He added the whole truth about the Seahawks will only be known after one or more key players write biographies.

This isn't a column about Seahawks players berating teammates privately. It's also not a shot at the excellent reporting from ESPN The Magazine's Seth Wickersham that added to what many of us have reported before, widening an already lake-deep knowledge of how volatile the Seahawks locker room is.

This column is simple. I spoke with four Seattle players this week, and they made something clear, stating their thoughts without malice. All four of them, each veterans, made one poignant statement: It's worse than you know.

What seems clear now is that when the Seahawks' final story is written, it will be about how a smart, talented team won in spite of—often publicly denied, but mostly true—inner rifts, slights and divisions.

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These players say the gulf between offense and defense has long been bad, hasn't gotten better, never will, and it doesn't matter.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

They emphasized that last point the most. It doesn't matter. They said it's wrong to think, as has often been stated, that their team thrives on conflict. They said most players on the team accept the division and barely think about it. There's animosity, but it's baked into the cake.

Another player compared the Seahawks' situation to a workplace where one department has constant friction with another, but they "put out the best laptops in the world."

This is why, players said, Richard Sherman and others feel comfortable publicly denying rifts everyone knows are there. To them, the rifts are background noise.

"It's just a bunch of nonsense from 'anonymous' sources," Sherman told SiriusXM NFL Radio in response to Wickersham's article (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). "Can never put much gravity [on] things like that."

Michael Bennett tweeted his agreement:

But players tell me the ESPN story was spot-on. The only disagreement was the effect the rifts have on the locker room.

It's worth noting the Seattle locker room is the most intellectually diverse one I've ever encountered. It is full of mentally strong, opinionated players, and it's possible many variations of the truth are accurate.

Warren Moon, the Hall of Fame quarterback who does color analyst work for the Seahawks' radio network, said part of the issue is that the team hasn't recovered from its Super Bowl XLIX loss to New England.

"They are still having a hangover from two years ago, if you can believe it or not..." Moon recently told Brian Webber and Kordell Stewart of NFL No Huddle on TuneIn (via Mike Florio of PFT). "...There are certain guys on the team that just haven't been able to [get over it], and until they are able to do that, they are going to continue to keep having a very good football team but a team that is going to probably come up short of their goals because of not being able to let go of the past and letting those things become a hindrance to their success.

"It can become a huge distraction. It can become something that separates your football team and you don't need that when you're trying to go against some of the best football teams in the league and trying to unseat them as either NFC champions or Super Bowl champions. You definitely have to make sure everybody's minds are clear and focused on what the goal is at hand."

So why hasn't the team disintegrated under this pressure? Because of Carroll. He keeps the fissures from developing into chasms.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

But as good as he is, not even Carroll can end this internal strife. He can just manage it. He's done a hell of a job withat that.

I'm told nothing in Seattle has changed. The players are going about their business as the rifts still sit there, acknowledged but non-debilitating, like a bee sting from weeks ago.

In fact, some players in the locker room considered the ESPN story a relief. Some players—clearly not Sherman or Bennett—said getting things out in public could help the team.

So, this is where we are. Seahawks players tell me the rifts are there but aren't severe. Others tell fellow members of the media something different. The truth? Like many things in life, it's probably layered.

The certainty? The Seahawks will be good. Really good. Despite their fissures.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter