SEATTLE WA - DECEMBER 05: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu #51 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates with Jay Richardson #99 and Craig Terrill #93 after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field on December 5 2010 in Seattle Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 31-14. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
One other interesting tidbit from Mitch Levy's interview with Seahawks' GM John Schneider the other day was his commentary on the state of the locker room. Levy asked him about the fact the Hawks passed on Jimmy Smith and Schneider didn't beat around the bush: he replied that though Smith is an obvious talent, his off-field concerns ultimately led to them passing on him. They feel that their locker room just isn't strong enough at this point to take a risk on a player like that. He mentioned specifically that the Ravens are perfect for Smith; if he steps out of line they've got Ed Reed or Ray Lewis to "grab him by the neck," as Schneider put it. He then pointed out that though the Hawks do have good leaders in the locker room they're still building that core group of star players and at this point they don't want to mess with their chemistry.
Though I really did want Jimmy Smith's named to be called, it really makes sense to me. At this point the Hawks don't have enough established veterans to really lay down the law. Who really would keep him in line if he started acting up? Lofa Tatupu is the unquestioned leader of the defense but outside of him there's not a ton of veteran leadership on a team that was sort of cobbled together last year with the additions of Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, and Junior Siavii. Well, Brock and Siavii are free agents and Clemons didn't really strike me as a vocal leader (though I could be way off base on that - I'm not in the huddle or locker room). Lawyer Milloy was an on-field general and commands respect from teammates and opposing players alike, but may not be back. Marcus Trufant is probably next on the rung but again, not sure how much of a vocal leader he really is.
Without rambling too much, I think what Schneider said has some implications for several 'character-concern' players we've linked to the Hawks. I think I've been guilty of this, but generally I have believed that the Seahawks are open to bringing in any 'troubled' players mostly because of Pete Carroll's coaching style. Rumors have gone around about Talib Aqib and the Hawks if he were to be dropped from the Bucs, and we talked a bit about Albert Haynesworth during the season as well. Another player recently rumored for the Hawks is Vince Young. Though Young would be fiscally pretty cheap, he plays a very high-profile leadership position and that in itself carries a lot of weight. If they're not willing to gamble on a talent like Smith I'm not so sure they'd have any interest in making Young the potential face of their franchise and hoping he doesn't create issues like he did in Tennessee.
My Jimmy Smith/Vince Young comparison may be apples and oranges - John Schneider did mention later in the interview that while they are building a young core of smart competitive players, "this is going to be something where we're able to take a chance here and there on guys, like you were talking about that may have some character issues and that sort of thing and that's when you can really start hitting on some cool stuff." The difference between wasting a first round pick on a guy that could headcase his way out of the league and taking a chance on free agent that you could drop tomorrow at no cost is substantial.
Ultimately it's a case by case basis and I think the Hawks stance on character concern guys is probably fluid. There are a lot of factors to be taken into account in every player but they're probably somewhere in the middle of Tim "high-character, low upside" Ruskell and Jimmy "just don't bring your guns to practice" Johnson. I'm ok with that.