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Can Seahawks pull another Green Bay on drug tests?

The Seattle team is doing well, but unfair, secretive NFL policies stand in the way of a good finish.
Marshawn Lynch and Seahawk fans shook the seisometers during the 2011 playoff game against New Orleans.

Marshawn Lynch and Seahawk fans shook the seisometers during the 2011 playoff game against New Orleans. KellBailey (Kelly Bailey)/Flickr

Only four NFC teams have records better than the Seahawks' 7-5 mark: Atlanta (11-1), Green Bay (8-4), Chicago (8-4) and San Francisco (8-3-1).  Another way to look at it: Four teams are only a game worse at 6-6, and St. Louis is a half-step back at 5-6-1.

Three-quarters of the way through the season, that sort of snuggliness is not unusual in the NFL. But it is a reminder that if the margins of victory get any smaller, the games will have to be watched by the latest technology innovation: HD electron microscopes.

Look at the Seahawks' outcomes: Nine of the 12 games have been decided by seven points or less. The Seahawks are 4-5 in those games. They are a few sneezes and a bout of indigestion from 11-1 or 1-11.

Exhilarating as was the Seahawks' 23-17 overtime win in Chicago, they are the NFL's ultimate if/then team: If one play had gone differently, then . . .

That's why the drug-appeal cases of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are so significant this season. From a standpoint of quality production, these top-tier cornerbacks are irreplaceable this late in the year. Their absences would seriously damage an already fading defense.

It probably wouldn't be big deal Sunday, when the Seahawks host 4-8 Arizona, which has lost eight in a row and has become the Greece of the NFL.

But against a good offense . . . think of it this way. Sherman and Browner were on the field in the final seconds of regulation when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler completed a 56-yard bomb to Brandon Marshall that set up Chicago's game-tying field goal to force OT. That ball was in the air for sufficient time to have re-enacted the Industrial Revolution in real time, and still the Seahawks defense couldn't close on the play.

Bad as it was, the splendid Marshall probably would have scored against a less able group, as well as a few times before that (10 receptions, 165 yards). The potential veteran eplacements for Sherman and Browner are too old (Marcus Trufant) and too out of game shape (Walter Thurmond, returning from a long injury rehab).

The fate of the Seahawks season may well hinge in a New York hearing room instead of on the field. Both players have maintained they did not take a banned stimulant. Sherman has his appeal hearing Dec. 14, Browner's date is so far unknown.

For Sherman, that means he will play at least the next two games. But in either case, the chance of an upheld appeal is said to be slim, although the NFL and players union will not release names of players who beat the rap, under the old have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife custom.

In the Seattle Times Sunday, reporter Danny O'Neil's interview with special teams player David Vobora, who spent one season (2011) with the Seahawks, had a telling quote. A St. Louis Rams linebacker in 2009 when he was suspended for four games for violating the same substance abuse policy that threatens the Seahawks, Vobora said, "There is an appeals process, but I'm going to be real about it. There's not much of appeals process. It's, 'you're guilty' and you're going to have to serve it, regardless."

Given how commissioner Roger Goodell handled the infamous "Bountygate" case against the New Orleans Saints, the shoot-first protocol seems an NFL staple.

The guilt or innocence of the players is not knowable to outsiders and not the issue here. The issues are transparency, due process and fairness. According to sources quoted by league-owned media, the positive tests occurred in September, private notice went out in October, the story was leaked anonymously in November and appeals will be ruled on presumably in December. The "system" is believed to be the only known export of North Korea.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Dec 5, 9:30 p.m. Inappropriate

I hate the Seahawks and only wish ill towards them. They whine when they choke in Superbowls and they whine when they are busted for doping.

Posted Thu, Dec 6, 11:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Seahawks could "pull another Green Bay" if Sherman can produce a medical history showing ADHD diagnosis and previous league approval for use of Ritalin, Focalin, Vyvanse or any of the other stimulants used to treat ADHD. Then he can avoid suspension for changing from one stimulant to another. At least two other NFL players have had suspensions changed to fines for failing to get pre-approval for a medication change.

Challenges to testing testing procedure and chain of custody that are common in court procedures go nowhere in the NFL.

The Seahawks are already halfway there since Browner will start his suspension immediately and Sherman will be available for the next two games. If Sherman serves a suspension, there would be at most two games where Seahawks miss them both--more likely just one. Browner will still be able to return for any playoff games.

quiller

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