Value of locker-room leadership

I’m noodling with this idea for a print column but thought I’d toss it in here in case I can’t get to it soon. As the Seahawks were packing up for the off-season yesterday, and offering some of their perspectives, I was again struck by the intelligence and sincerity and depth of some of the veterans. As they talked about what went on this season, you could see what is at the root of their leadership ability.

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Linebacker Lofa Tatupu is certainly one of those guys, but he wasn’t around when we got there, so I’m mostly referring to Lawyer Milloy and Matt Hasselbeck. Neither is certain to be a Seahawk next season, and both are well into their career “golden years.” Until you can listen to them in the locker room, it’s probably difficult to grasp how much the team will lose in terms of guidance and emotional leadership if guys like them aren’t there.

Milloy said that one of the most rewarding things for him is when one of the young players comes up and thanks him for the way he’s helped them see what it takes to be a professional … how to go about the job of being a pro football player. I’ve talked this season to young guys like Earl Thomas and Walter Thurmond, and they’ve cited Milloy’s influence in their preparation, attitude and intensity, bearing and demeanor. For them, he’s been a walking blueprint for success and longevity in the league.

Hasselbeck came back from a disastrous string of games to play his best down the stretch. Even when he was battling injuries and playing poorly, there was no doubt about his leadership, as he was touted by teammates as giving the most inspirational speech before the final regular-season game against St. Louis – even though he wasn’t even going to play in the game.

Both these guys stayed positive and on-point when the season could have totally unraveled. Both led by word and deed, and provided examples of playing tough, being accountable and responsible. The game is getting statistically analyzed to a microscopic degree. But what can get overlooked in the process is the impact and value of guys who show the way, who are the emotional and psychological leaders on the field and in the locker room.

Maybe they’ll be back and maybe they won’t. Others can take their positions, but it’s clear that the team would be hard pressed to replace the loss of that kind of valuable veteran leadership.