The rivalry between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh is well-documented, and goes back to a specific "What's your deal?" incident when both men were coaching in what was then the Pac-10. Now that Harbaugh has taken the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl, and Carroll is firmly in charge of the super-buzzy Seattle Seahawks, it's safe to say that this NFC West competition has an unusual amount of enmity around it.
Put simply, Carroll and Harbaugh respect each other, but you won't see them barbecuing in the backyard together anytime soon.
In June, Harbaugh upped the ante when he was asked about Seattle's recent rash of PED suspensions, notably linked to the drug Adderall. Harbaugh took a clear shot at his enemies up north, while stumping for the relative cleanliness of his own program.
''You don't know what it is," Harbaugh said of banned substances in general. "Even when people say what it is, you don't know that that's what it is. I've heard this thrown out or that, but that's usually the agents or the players themselves saying it's, for example, Adderall. But the NFL doesn't release what it actually is, so you have no idea. You're taking somebody at their word that I don't know if you can take them at their word, understanding the circumstances.
''It has no place in an athlete's body. Play by the rules. I always want to be above reproach, especially when you're good, because you don't want people to come back and say, 'They're winning because they're cheating.' That's always going to be a knee-jerk reaction in my experience, ever since I was a little kid. We want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules. Because if you don't, if you cheat to win, then you've already lost, according to Bo Schembechler. And Bo Schembechler is about next to the word of God as you can get in my mind. It's not the word of God, but it's close.''
One wonders what Bo Schembechler would think of the trade made on Friday. The 49ers sent a conditional pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for cornerback Eric Wright, who served a four-game suspension just last year for a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. Wright later admitted to using Adderall, and he missed four games after his appeal was denied. Wright was arrested for an alleged DUI charge in 2012 that was later dropped, and per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, he was arrested for a similar charge on July 12 of this year. He posted $5,000 bond in that case.
This is not to demonize Wright at all -- I've spoken to him before, and he's always seemed like a decent guy to me. But no NFL coach should take off on the ethics of another team when that player who could solve your positional issues, despite a checkered past, could be just around the corner.
"At the end of the day, this game is about winning," Wright told me last July at Travelle Gaines' gym in Los Angeles. "It's about putting in the time and hard work to win. It's a rare breed of guys out there who don't care about the game. The perception is tough, but there's nothing you can do to shake that, other than to continue to put the best product out there on Sundays. Nobody's going to talk about the work we all put in here -- it's irrelevant to them, because it's our job and it's what they feel we should be doing. Anybody can go out there and have their own personal obstacles to overcome. Not just athletes, but in general. But we're in that spotlight, so things come out. People have an opinion, and they care enough to actually say something about it. That just comes with the territory. You know it, you understand it, and you work through it.
"And the end, though, nobody cares about anything but wins and losses in this game, and we have to do the best we can to prepare ourselves to get those wins."
It should be as simple as that.
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