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Kam Chancellor holdout: Seattle Seahawks must appease leader

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ST. LOUIS -- Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll knew the questions were coming long before he ever walked into the press conference that followed his team's 34-31 overtime loss in St. Louis. The concerns had festered for months. The issue had swelled with each passing week in training camp, when the most physical member of the famed "Legion of Boom" was nowhere to be found. Carroll did his best to deflect the queries on Sunday afternoon -- "That's not my focus right now," he said, when asked how the holdout of strong safety Kam Chancellor factored into his team's defeat -- but this is now a matter that is no longer up for debate.

It's basically time for Carroll and general manager John Schneider to stop acting like this is a situation they can control. Precedents shouldn't matter anymore, nor should ideas of how to best send a message to the rest of the team about honoring contracts. The minute Seattle lost that game in St. Louis, all the leverage on this matter shifted to Chancellor. The only question today is how long it takes the Seahawks front office to actually accept that.

We all know Seattle will face tougher quarterbacks than Nick Foles and better offenses than the hamstrung unit St. Louis fielded on Sunday. It's even more critical to bring this up because of what Chancellor means to this team. As Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey said, "Not having the presence of Kam Chancellor is huge. They had Dion Bailey step in, but (Chancellor) is their big guy back there."

As much as Chancellor is reputed for his devastating hits, it's his leadership that the Seahawks will miss most if this holdout lasts deep into this season. He's essentially the godfather of that locker room, a respected team captain who can relate to nearly anybody on the roster. He's built an amazing chemistry with fellow Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, as the two men patrol the back end of the secondary with a precision that makes life easier for everyone up front. Hell, it was Chancellor who convinced most of his defensive comrades to travel to Maui this offseason when quarterback Russell Wilson offered to pay for a team-wide bonding trip. That would've been an entirely different adventure without Chancellor's assistance.

The Seahawks realize these things. It's just that they've taken a predictable approach to this dilemma since Day 1. They say Chancellor has three years left on a contract he signed when he was an ascending talent -- and they don't want to redo deals just because players don't like the terms anymore. They took a similar stance with star running back Marshawn Lynch last year. They eventually budged enough to satisfy Lynch's demands and then rewarded him with a two-year extension earlier this offseason.

If you want to draw distinctions here, it's true that Chancellor has more time left on his deal than Lynch had on his at the time. (Lynch had two years remaining on his contract entering last season.) If you want to focus on reality, the Seahawks saw the value of placating Lynch before they started their pursuit of a second consecutive Lombardi Trophy. There's no way they would've returned to the Super Bowl without Lynch operating as a happy camper. Their hopes of making a third straight trip to that stage are just as daunting without Chancellor in the mix.

The Seahawks did their best to downplay that loss on Sunday, but it was ironic to see Bailey beaten by Rams tight end Lance Kendricks for the game-tying touchdown late in regulation. Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman said, "That wasn't the play that defined the game" -- and in some respects, he's right. The Rams had an obvious confidence in how they competed against the Seattle defense all afternoon. Even with the Seahawks forcing three turnovers, St. Louis seemed more comfortable attacking downfield solely because Chancellor wasn't lurking.

Even more telling was the sight of Bailey in the locker room after the contest. He sat despondent in a folding chair next to Sherman, where at least two different teammates walked over to console him. Defensive end Michael Bennett spent several minutes with his right arm wrapped around Bailey's shoulder, whispering support to him. They all knew he would feel more responsible for this loss than any other player in that room.

Maybe Chancellor would've slipped and stumbled in that situation, as Bailey did on that play. What is apparent is that other players have to pick up the slack when it comes to leadership. Chancellor wouldn't have been the only person to support Bailey after that setback. It's quite likely, however, that he would've been among the first to reach out to him.

Every game, all season

That's what you hear about Chancellor when you talk to the Seahawks. The man is so generous of heart that he was calling Seattle defensive backs during training camp -- the very men who were competing to fill his shoes -- in order to give advice on how best to play his position. He also could be extremely valuable in the coming weeks if another rift develops between the offense and defense, as it reportedly did last season. The Seahawks had enough struggles on the offensive side of the ball in St. Louis to think that isn't a far-fetched idea.

It's those little details that Carroll and Schneider need to consider as they ponder the next steps in this holdout. They've made it clear that they won't redo Chancellor's contract, but he's also publicly said that he's willing to meet the team halfway at this stage. From what Chancellor said last week, the two sides are less than $1 million apart. "Petty" is how he described the discussions to NFL Network's Dan Hellie.

Now is the time for the Seahawks to realize that "petty" is something they can't afford to be moving forward. They can still talk with bravado -- "We're still going back to the Super Bowl," outside linebacker Bruce Irvin told some teammates shortly after the game -- but there are glaring flaws in this team after only one game. Of course, the Seahawks can brainstorm solutions for a porous offensive line, create more ways to utilize tight end Jimmy Graham and rethink the suspect play-calling that did them in on Sunday afternoon. What they can no longer do is downplay an issue that really should no longer be in question:

Seattle just isn't the same team without Kam Chancellor.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

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