The NFL offseason doesn’t just feel long. It is long. At least seven and a half months long, which makes it about twice as long as the actual three- or four-month football season. Not like those other sports, baseball or basketball, that seem to take only a few short months off before embarking another eight- or nine-month sojourn. Instead there comes a time—around now, in the intertropical middle of the it—when you’re already a full football season since football season but still another football season until football season.
Depending on if you count from when the Seattle Seahawks were eliminated, or from the end of the Super Bowl, that precise halfway point in the offseason passed either a week ago, or is coming up this weekend. Like the days getting shorter after the summer solstice, the good news now is there will continue to be fewer days til football than football-less days gone by. So there’s finally football on the horizon, and for most NFL clubs this transition is met with a brief return to the practice field for organized team activities. The Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers already started their workouts Tuesday, and most of the rest of the league gets going on May 22. But the Seahawks, as well as the Atlanta Falcons, were penalized a week of 2017 OTAs—a loss of three practices each—for contact violations from 2016. Both teams will wait until May 30 to start their voluntary program. The NFL also docked Seattle its fifth-round pick.
This probably isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of the Seahawks’ next championship opportunity, but it is a disadvantage. I’m sure the coaching staff will have a plan to catch their players up as much as possible. But professional coaches already lament the loss of learning opportunities with the regular limits of both offseason and in-season training under the current collective bargaining agreement.
A year ago Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable complained about the hard task of installing schemes and breaking tendencies in linemen trained for spread offenses popular in the college level, but also partly blamed the lack of practice opportunity allowed by NFL rules. Although longtime NFL line guru Howard Mudd (famously of the ’80s Cleveland Browns and ’00s Indianapolis Colts, but who also spent two stretches with the Seahawks, 1978-1982 and 1993-1997) challenged some of Cable’s critique, questioning Seattle’s scouting and development of players, Mudd agreed with the beef about practice: “You can’t coach the player from the last game until about June 1,” Mudd said. “They can’t go on the field and do anything. You can’t even talk to them. So these offensive linemen are wandering around, and it’s not an instinctive position. This is truly a skilled position. Skill is something that you learn to do.”
For the Seahawks’ offensive line already considered a liability, plus so many of its key members in their first or second years (Luke Joeckel, drafted 2013, and Justin Britt, drafted 2014, are the wizened veterans) and so many of the positions still totally up for grabs, losing three out of 10 scarce days of practice time looks like a serious setback. And that’s not to mention the four new defensive backs drafted in 2017, expected to quickly step into the mantle of the Legion of Boom—in at least one case as an opening day starter—who need to learn the delicate kick-step maneuver that has traditionally required some adjustment and patience for new initiates.
Though its stars are mostly now veterans, Seattle in the last two offseasons has become again a quite young bunch, with 11 or more new rookies added to a 14-deep class from 2016. I’m sure the coaching staff will find creative ways to implement their guidance with the strict time they have. After all, Pete Carroll, Kris Richard, Cable and the crew have known about these sanctions for almost a full year. But with so little football to go around in these dog days of May, what seemed like a trivial penalty when first announced now looks like it could be a damaging forfeit of valuable instruction.
Is it no big deal, or are you worried?