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Matt Calkins: Can NFL stay healthy and avoid the Pac-12’s fate? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll thinks it can.

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 12, 2020

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll throws a football during NFL football training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Renton, Wash.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll throws a football during NFL football training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Renton, Wash. (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – There is no stat for this on, but if it were documented, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll would probably hold the record for use of the phrase “fired up.” The man is a virtuoso of vigor – a sun-sized ball of energy.

So if everything he had prepared for suddenly vanished, with no sign of when it might return, how would he react?

I bring this up because Carroll famously spent nine seasons as the coach at USC, where the Trojans won four Rose Bowls under his watch. But if he were coaching in the Pac-12 today, his players’ season would have disappeared.

How would he have dealt with that? How would he have comforted the student-athletes who saw their schedule succumb to coronavirus concerns?

“We would have dealt with the truth of it; that’s where we would have started. We would have talked about why it happened; what we’re missing. During these times, you don’t get everything that you used to. That’s not what this time is about. This time is about enduring, and standing up to the challenges of it and keeping a great mindset,” Carroll said during his news conference from training camp Wednesday.

“I’m talking like the ball coach, saying ‘You gotta suck it up.’ It’s hard, and it’s challenging, and you need to figure it out. And we need to help the people that are having trouble helping themselves, and doing whatever that takes.”

Following the Big Ten’s lead, the Pac-12 canceled all of its sports through the end of the year on Tuesday. And from a financial and national-interest point of view, football was the biggest casualty.

The decision is not without controversy, as the SEC, Big 12 and ACC still plan on having a season. But is that smart?

Carroll gave a rather diplomatic answer when asked about some conferences canceling while others attempt to soldier on. But diplomacy and thoughtfulness are not mutually exclusive.

“Those are monumental decisions that were made just because we’re all accustomed to the institution of college football and all, so it sets you back and it’s startling to think of it, but these are not normal times in any sense,” Carroll said. “(The Big Ten and Pac-12) made a choice to take care of people first, so those that have chosen that way, I support them 1,000 percent. Those are difficult decisions. And the other conferences that are going for it, you know that they’re really digging in. They’re learning from everybody to do it right, we’ll see how well they do. I hope that they can do it and keep people safe.”

One of the key factors spurring the cancellation of Big Ten and Pac-12 sports was a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that linked COVID-19 to an increased risk of a heart condition called myocarditis. And one of the more vocal spokesmen warning of said risk is Seahawks team doctor Jonathan Drezner, who doubles as the director of the University of Washington Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology.

Before the Pac-12 canceled its season, Drezner told ESPN that the unanswered questions surrounding myocarditis made greenlighting college sports less likely. Could that factor into the NFL’s return as well?

A reporter asked Carroll if he knew much about myocarditis.

“Well, I haven’t heard a lot about it until the last few days, and I talked to the doctor and got schooled up on it a little bit, so I know what’s going on,” Carroll said. “They’re studying like crazy trying to figure it out, and trying to interpret what’s going on. They don’t have enough information to be conclusive yet, but they know there is something going on. Thankfully, we’re on it.”

The NFL isn’t like the NBA, which is spending the rest of its season in a bubble. The likelihood of several members of a team contracting this virus is concurrent with the freedom they’re given.

Still, Carroll seems confident that his show will go on and not suffer the same fate as his former college conference.

“We work in our own bubble. We understand the theory about that. We’re trying to stick with it.” Carroll said. “Leadership is really making a big deal to the younger guys, so if we keep carrying it out, we’ll be in good shape.”

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