Like the bloom of the effervescent Lunaria biennis, Seahawks offseason practice violations are a rite of summer. Every two years for the last six years, Pete Carroll’s team has been punished by the NFL for violating the league’s rules prohibiting excessive physical contact in offseason workouts.
On Monday, the NFL announced that the Seahawks will be docked $400,000 and a fifth round pick in the 2017 draft, and forced to forfeit the first week of next year’s organized team activities. Carroll, who has overseen all three violations, will lose $200,000. The penalty was the result of a June 6 OTA session in which two players "banged heads" during a helmet-less practice.
The NFL has steadily increased their punishment, and the Seahawks have continued to skirt the rules. In 2012, the league took away OTA practices and handed out an undisclosed fine. In 2014, it took away practices again and fined Carroll and the team more than $300,000. This year, the NFL went a step further and took away a draft pick. We’ll see in 2018 whether it incentivizes the Seahawks to stop.
It may not, though
Coaches have been lamenting the lack of practice time ever since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement mandated a much less intensive schedule. At that time, the offseason was reduced by five weeks, the number of total padded practices during the season was reduced to 14, and training camp two-a-days were eliminated. Before training camp begins, teams now have a 10-week, three-phase period to run a workout program, in which no live contact is allowed. This is where the Seahawks keep getting caught.
The schedule was negotiated between players and owners. It benefits both -- players don't have to subject themselves to as much wear, and owners can say they made a concession towards player safety. Coaches, however, have been saying that the rules make players unprepared and potentially more susceptible to injuries.
A story by Kevin Clark for the Ringer earlier this month detailed how the NFL is getting much younger, too. The rookie pay scale instituted in the 2011 CBA makes less experienced players much more cost effective, putting even more pressure on veterans to prove they deserve a second or third contract. The average length of an NFL playing career has dropped drastically since 2008, which means players are leaving the league before they can show off how well-practiced they are. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told Clark that having so many poorly prepared young players is negatively affecting the quality of the game.
When it comes to strictly football matters, Harbaugh thinks the league and the union are failing younger players. "If you want to become a great piano player you've gotta play piano. If you want to be a great golfer you've got to play every day. But if you want to be a great football player, it's ‘Oh, we aren't allowed to play football for three months,' and I don't even mean play football, I mean we can't do a drill. It doesn't make sense."
You'll be shocked to know that the Ravens were docked a week of OTAs in May for putting rookies in pads during a minicamp.
Carroll vowed he would take the necessary steps to make sure the Seahawks "do it right" next time, but that doesn't mean he won't continue toe the line. In 2014, he (in his own way) admitted that he was intentionally pushing back against the rules to determine exactly what he could get away with.
"The first year  they had some questions with how we worked," Carroll said of the league office. "And then we had a great year last year. Halfway through camp, we got a really good report about how we were working, so we stayed with it. We took from last year and tried to do things better with the same tone and same thought, but [the NFL] decided otherwise when they looked at the film."
Carroll will continue to try to wring out every drop of preparation from his players allowable by the NFL. He shouldn't keep breaking the rules if he can help it -- for the sake of his players, himself, and the Seahawks -- but don't be surprised, either, if he and a number of NFL coaches get busted again and again.