Commentary

49ers should learn from Seahawks

San Francisco needs to follow rivals' example for overcoming off-field incidents

Originally Published: April 15, 2014
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

It was simple. Last May, after defensive end Bruce Irvin became the fifth Seattle Seahawks player to get suspended for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, safety Kam Chancellor delivered a message to his teammates.

Grow up and move past that.

The Seahawks could not be great, could not achieve what they wanted, if the foolishness of the failed drug tests and excuses and suspensions didn't stop. It was only May, months before the season was to start, but it was a critical juncture and a critical message that reset the tone for what would become a run to the franchise's first Super Bowl title.

Grow up and move past that.

[+] EnlargeAldon Smith
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsAldon Smith was charged with making a false bomb report at Los Angeles International Airport.

The San Francisco 49ers would be wise to listen and learn from the Seahawks' example -- as painful as that would be for them. They, too, as a collective unit need to grow up and move past their problems and realize that greatness in the National Football League is achieved only with an entire organization, from the front office on down, pulling together and working for a common goal.

Being special takes sacrifice. It takes hardship. It takes doing what is right, not what it easy. And it takes thinking of your team before yourself.

San Francisco can be special again this year. The 49ers have been one of the preeminent franchises in the NFL since Jim Harbaugh took over in 2011. In the past three seasons, they've hosted one NFC title game, won another and lost a third at Seattle by one incomplete pass.

They came within a goal-line stand of beating Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII. And with quarterback Colin Kaepernick still playing on his rookie contract -- for now, at least -- San Francisco has had salary-cap flexibility to invest in talent on both sides of the ball. As a result, the offense has dynamic playmakers and the defense is as deep front to back as any team in the league.

Another Super Bowl run, on paper, is a very real possibility, but not if all of this foolishness away from the field this offseason continues.

Look at the list of offseason drama the 49ers are enduring. It is not particularly pretty. The Aldon Smith news from the weekend is merely the latest problem.

Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday and charged with making a false bomb report. He was booked for the violation, which is punishable by up to a year in jail, and then released on $20,000 bail.

It was the latest brush with the law for the 24-year-old Smith, one of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL, but one who missed five games last year while getting treatment for substance abuse.

Kaepernick and wide receiver Quinton Patton were linked to an investigation into an alleged incident in Miami involving a woman earlier this month. Last week in a statement released on his Twitter feed, Kaepernick sternly denied his involvement.

Cornerback Chris Culliver last week pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge and felony possession of brass knuckles from an incident in California late last month.

As if legalities involving your franchise quarterback, best defender and another defensive starter weren't enough, earlier in the offseason the 49ers were linked to a trade that would have sent Harbaugh to Cleveland to become the Browns' next head coach. Harbaugh has one year left on his contract, and he and the team have been unable to agree on an extension.

Part of the problem, if reports out of the Bay Area are true, is there is a strained relationship between the notoriously tyrannical Harbaugh and San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke.

Talk about drama.

San Francisco needs someone to step up and deliver a strong message such as the one Chancellor gave to his Seahawks teammates last May. While it is admirable the 49ers have wrapped their arms around Smith and tried to get the young man help to save his life, at some point, Smith needs to be held accountable. He needs to know there are more substantial consequences to his erratic and alleged illegal behavior than just disappointing the bosses and whatever punishment the justice system hands down.

That applies to Kaepernick and the rest of the players, too. It is important the players understand they must be accountable to each other and to the organization, and that they play for each other, for a common goal and a greater good.

Seattle got that last year, even if the suspensions didn't end with Irvin. There were more issues, because some guys never learn, but ultimately, Chancellor set a tone that carried through the season. The Seahawks became a close-knit group in part because of the adversity they faced.

Grow up and move past that.

The 49ers would be wise to follow that advice, because they are so close to reaching their goal. That won't be the case forever.

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