Happy Wednesday and welcome back to another edition of our 12th man mailbag. This week we’ll be covering a weird little story that concerns how the Seattle Seahawks settled on their final 53 man roster, and then changed their minds.
April, Washington State:
What are your thoughts on the Bryan Walters/Phil Bates situation?
I have to say this is one of the more perplexing stories that I’ve seen coming out of VMAC since I started covering the team. For those of you who are unaware, on Saturday afternoon the Seahawks had a deadline to let the NFL know which 53 players they would be starting the season with. They did that. Among the players chosen were seven wide receivers: Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood and Phil Bates.
Then on Sunday Pete Carroll and John Schneider had a change of heart. They dropped Bates and then re-signed Bryan Walters. Why did they do it? I’d be lying if I said I know for sure, but I have a couple of theories.
1. Phil Bates did not fit
Bates was always at a disadvantage competing against Seattle’s other receivers for a roster spot. He only started playing the position a few years ago, as in college he was a starting quarterback. As athletic as he is it’s difficult to make up that many years of experience in a short time. You may also recall the fight that Bates got into with Richard Sherman a couple months ago at practice.
— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) June 19, 2014
It’s possible that this was only one incident and that Bates has clashed with other teammates either on the field or in the locker room. It’s far-fetched to me, but it’s one possibility.
So that’s clearly not the case, as it turns out. According to John Boyle of the Everett Herald, the team has brought Bates back:
#Seahawks re-signed WR Phil Bates, placed G/C Lemuel Jeanpierre on injured reserve.
— John Boyle (@johnpboyle) September 3, 2014
2. Walters won the job vs. Oakland
A couple of days before the final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders I predicted that the Seahawks would carry six receivers. That list included Bates, but not Walters:
— cover32 Seahawks (@cover32_SEA) August 30, 2014
Walters did fumble his first kickoff return of the game but after that he was marvelous both catching passes and running kicks back. He finished with 194 all-purpose yards, which is enough to grab your attention no matter who you’re playing or what the situation is. It could be that Carroll had his mind made up before the game but then had a crisis of conscience on Saturday night and decided that Walters had outplayed Bates and deserved the spot.
3. Protecting Earl Thomas
While I sincerely doubt that we’ll ever actually hear the coaching staff admit it, I think this is the real reason why Walters got the nod. A lot of people (including guys like Baldwin and Kam Chancellor) have spoken out against Thomas returning punts. It’s probably the most dangerous job on a football team and putting a player as valuable as ET is in that spot is flirting with disaster.
If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to trade one player on the Seahawks roster, Earl Thomas would be the last name to come out of my mouth. That includes Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.
— NFL (@NFL) September 1, 2014
What Thomas does in the deep middle of the field cannot be replaced. Not by anyone on the Seahawks bench. Not by any other free safety in the NFL. He is a singular talent, and even if he might be a great punt returner one day, he is still too good in the defensive backfield to risk a few extra yards on returns.
Walters has plenty of experience in both punt and kick returns, and he’s far more replaceable than Harvin or Thomas.