Koren Robinson: Countdown to Extinction?

After four frustrating, infuriating, potential-filled, but mostly unrewarding years, Koren Robinson's time with the Seattle Seahawks may be at an end. Robinson's most recent DUI arrest would seem to cement the inevitable.

As first reported by Mike Sando and Sean Robinson of the Tacoma News Tribune, Robinson was stopped by Medina police on May 6th, and charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving. A recent report by Jose Miguel Romero of the Seattle Times details that Robinson was stopped for excessive speeding and unsafe lane travel. The officer who pulled him over, according to a statement from Medina police, smelled intoxicants on Robinson's breath and asked Robinson to take a field sobriety test.

Robinson complied and was arrested after he failed the test. After being taken to the Kirkland police station, he was notified of the charges and released to a friend. He is scheduled to appear in Kirkland court on July 18th.

A more pressing deadline in Robinson’s mind might be June 1st – because now, NFL teams can cut players from their rosters and receive far greater salary cap relief. The NFL’s close of business on June 1st is when that began. The Seahawks would regain $1.3 million in cap space by releasing Robinson. There had been serious rumors about Robinson’s ability to survive the June cuts due to a variety of factors, but the news of this recent vehicular debacle puts the Seahawks in the uncomfortable yet familiar position of addressing the troubled wide receiver’s issues at what could be a very fortuitous time for the team.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Seahawks released the following statement via their official website:

“We are extremely disappointed and concerned with Koren's situation,” said a club spokesman. “We have established several programs, both league and team sponsored, to support and help him. We will continue to encourage him to use this support network and believe he should be held accountable for his actions.”

This time, however, there’s much more at stake, and it’s even more of a betrayal on Robinson’s part. Robinson spent part of this offseason at an undisclosed rehab facility, and recently made several statements to the media in which he implied that he was on the mend and turning over a new leaf – most notably a statement made on April 30, less than a week before the DUI arrest, when he claimed that he was not drinking anymore. “I’m not stupid, man,” he said then. “I’m not going to be one of those people they talk about, ‘Oh, he had the potential to be a great player but he let this, that and the third, so many distractions’ – that’s not going to be me.”

Last season, Robinson spent six games on the sidelines – suspended twice for one game each by the team for missing practices and meetings, and serving a four-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. After suspending Robinson before the regular season finale against the Falcons for missing a New Year’s Day walkthrough practice, head coach Mike Holmgren told Robinson that he could play in the wild-card playoff game against the St. Louis Rams if he sought professional help in the offseason. Robinson caught 4 passes for 40 yards and fumbled twice in the game that ended Seattle ’s season when the Seahawks lost, 27-20.

As Sando reported in a Tacoma News Tribune article in October of 2004 (soon before the four-game suspension became official), Robinson’s history with vehicular (and other legal) incidents is hardly new:

A search of public records revealed 21 cases implicating Robinson for various misdeeds, including four allegations of negligent driving since 2003. The records show repeated failures to appear in court, cases going to collection and lawyers taking care of matters at the last minute.

A negligent-driving conviction from April 2003 stemmed from a more serious charge of reckless driving, records show. There were 13 other traffic-related cases, including one from April of this year in which an officer cited Robinson for traveling 105 mph in a 60 zone. The most recent case was dated Aug. 12, four days before Seattle played an exhibition game at Green Bay. That case involved allegations of reckless and negligent driving. Six other incidents originated from Robinson's home state of North Carolina, including four in 1998.

The Seahawks have been more than patient with Robinson – Holmgren has bent over backwards on many occasions, to his own and his team’s detriment, to defend and try to help him – and this has to be a slap in the face to everyone in the organization after everything Robinson has put them through.

Dismissing a player despite that player’s potential is a tough decision, but beyond a certain point, there’s simply no other choice. The case of WR Terry Glenn and the New England Patriots is a most instructive example.

Drafted by New England in 1996, Glenn earned Rookie of the Year honors after bagging 90 receptions for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns in his first season. When Bill Belichick became the Patriots’ head coach in 2000, Glenn was one of the team’s few stars – and unfortunately, he appeared to be all too conscious of that fact. 2001 marked the beginning of the end for Glenn in New England when he missed the first four games of the season after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He left the team without permission the day it was announced, and Belichick suspended him for the season because of his absence. That suspension was overturned by an arbitrator.

In an excerpt from the 2004 book, “Management Secrets of the New England Patriots”, author James Lavin addressed Glenn’s situation, Belichick’s final response, and the effect it had on the team:

One of Coach Belichick’s boldest moves sent a clear signal to every Patriot that he would not tolerate unreliable players or players who placed themselves above the team…Glenn was amazingly physically gifted, but he would dazzle one week and fail to show up the next. Glenn’s performance seldom matched his ability because he was not a focused football player. Said quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “Terry can change the way a defense prepares for us. He is so fast and so good, and can score at any time, that teams have to spend a lot of time preparing for him. We need him now more than ever to step and take over games.

Instead of begging Glenn or babying him, Belichick lost patience, benched him, and later traded him. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl that same season… without Glenn’s help. Patriots players were pumped up by the implicit message that their coaches valued tenacity and toughness over “talent.”

Sound familiar? The only missing equivalent factor is the Seahawks’ final response in this case. But if new team president Tim Ruskell is to be believed, there can be only one outcome.

In a letter he sent to every Seahawks player in early March, Ruskell said, “We must be held accountable for our own actions, year-round.” This was further illustrated in a letter sent to all season ticket holders, in which he wrote, “We will look at the character of this team. We want players who are not only good team players, but good citizens. We will concentrate on bringing in high-character players. Whether it is through free agency or the draft. Leaders have to emerge to guide this team on a sure and steady march to greatness. We will build this team around players who want to be here and who want to win…no matter what it takes.”

Ruskell has, for the most part, lived up to those words. The Seahawks have already released tackle Chris Terry and linebacker Anthony Simmons, two quality players at positions of need whose attitudes didn’t meet the new standard. The acquisition of high-character players like Joe Jurevicius and Jamie Sharper has added even more muscle to the new regime.

But if Koren Robinson’s enablement continues, those words will become hollow over time. And that time will be soon. The “character first” credo will become as meaningless as the countless promises presented by Koren Robinson himself and the Seahawks will assume still more of Robinson’s curse:

All the talent in the world, and not a clue what to do with it.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.


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