PHOENIX – Pete Carroll is unconventional in so many ways when measured against the typical NFL head coach. Bumping into former Vikings special teams Pro Bowler Heath Farwell at the Super Bowl site this week revealed an example that few people probably know about.
In late August, Farwell — a special teams standout for the Seahawks since being waived by the Vikings in September of 2011 and signing with Seattle the following month — suffered the dreaded sports hernia and was looking at a recovery period of about 10 weeks. He was 32 at the time, was due to make $1.25 million and had been battling undrafted rookie Brock Coyle for a roster spot.
Under normal circumstances, the way the NFL works is Farwell would have been called into Carroll's office, thanked for his service and been given an injury settlement and dumped at the curb.
The two sides would have had to agree on a projected length of recovery to determine the value of the settlement. At the end of that projected period, Farwell would have been free to sign immediately with another team or wait six more weeks to re-sign with Seattle. With the severity of his injury, a return to Seattle this season wouldn't have been possible.
In other words, Farwell was prepared to pack his bags and move his wife and two young boys when he was called into Carroll's office. His time with the defending Super Bowl champion appeared to be over.
"I was kind of depressed and down, and Coach Carroll said, 'I think I got something for you,' " Farwell said. "I want to put you on injured reserve. I want you around here helping out, coaching and helping the young players and working on special teams. Kind of mentor some of the young linebackers."
Farwell, who has a desire to coach someday, presented the option to his agent, who had never heard of such a proposal.
"He said, 'No way they're going to do this,' " Farwell said. "He's like the salary cap guy is going to be like, 'No way.' I said, 'I don't know. That's what Coach Carroll said.' "
Carroll kept his word in part because he's on the lookout for coaching talent almost as much as he is playing talent. And the Seahawks were willing to pay Farwell $1.25 million for what essentially was a coaching internship for an active player.
Since then, teammates and coaches have joked all season that Farwell is the second-highest paid coach on the team behind Carroll.
Farwell has enjoyed the peek behind the curtain to experience the "hours and hours" of hard work that goes into preparing even the briefest of meetings and presentations for the players. His contract is up after this season and he still wants to play, but he's more certain than ever that he now wants to pursue coaching after his playing days are over.
"It's funny because I was competing with [Coyle] before my injury," said Farwell, who joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2005. "He reminds me of myself a lot. After I got hurt, Coach Carroll says, 'I want you to help him.' So that's the guy I'm mentoring. The guy I was competing with and was trying to take my job, I'm now helping him to further his career. It's been a really cool deal."