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RENTON, Wash. — If you’re a Seattle Seahawks tight end, you’d better not let anyone catch you reliving your high school glory days.

Or wearing your college team’s gear.

Or flaunting an expensive new purchase.

Those are just a few of the fineable offenses in the position group’s kangaroo court, a tradition that third-year tight end Nick Vannett is upholding following the free-agent departures of Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson. Vannett isn’t sure exactly when it started, just that it predates his arrival as a third-round pick in 2016 out of Ohio State.

“I’d say the most common one is probably a ‘Homeland’ fine,” Vannett said. “That’s the one we probably dish out the most. So for me, for example, if I were to wear anything Ohio, Ohio State, if I mention Ohio, any city in Ohio, I get fined for that.”

‘THAT’S A FINE’

A few examples of the fines doled out among the Seahawks’ tight ends, courtesy Nick Vannett:

Big Baller fine: “If you make like a big purchase or if you’re acting like you’re just a big baller, walking around like your s— don’t stink, then yeah [it’s a fine].”

Homeland fine: “That’s the one we probably dish out the most. So for me, for example, if I were to wear anything Ohio, Ohio State, if I mention Ohio, any city in Ohio, I get fined for that.”

Uncle Rico fine: “If you tell a high school story that we all just really don’t care about, that’s a fine.”

Sound effects fine: Vannett didn’t have much explanation other than to say their TE coach is a frequent violator.

No-fine fine: “If you go the whole day without getting a fine, you’re getting a fine.”

It’s $20 a pop — at least for now — with half the final pot helping fund an end-of-season tight ends trip and the other half earmarked for a to-be-determined charity. (“It usually goes towards something kid-related. In the past, we did it for cancer. So it’s always going towards a good cause,” Vannett said.)

It’s a good thing, then, that the fines are doled out liberally and no one in the room is above the law. Not even tight ends coach Pat McPherson.

“For Coach Pat, his big one is sound effects,” Vannett said. “He’s always making these sound effects like when we’re watching film. So 90 percent of his fines are from sound effects. We’ve got ‘Uncle Rico’ fines where if you tell a high school story that we all just really don’t care about, that’s a fine. There’s so many. We have a ‘No Fine’ fine. If you go the whole day without getting a fine, you’re getting a fine.”

The “Uncle Rico” fine is named for the character from “Napoleon Dynamite” who famously bragged that he could throw a pigskin a quarter mile back in his day and lamented that his high school team would’ve won state if only his coach had played him in the fourth quarter.

Said Vannett of McPherson: “We’ll watch film and something will click in his head and he’s like, ‘Oh, man, I remember this time at UCLA’ or whatever school he went to, like, ‘I did this in practice.’

“It’s like, ‘Pat, appreciate the story but that’s an Uncle Rico.'”

The tight ends aren’t the team’s only position group that has a fine system, but this one is definitely the wackiest.

“They’re kinda crazy,” said Frank Clark, who added that the defensive linemen will fine each other $500 whenever one of them costs another a sack.

Keeping things light is nothing new for Seattle’s tight ends. It was that group — Willson specifically — that spearheaded the Techno Thursday movement that by last season’s end had players bouncing up and down and pumping their fists while electronic dance music blared through the speakers in the locker room and the practice field.

It was a surprise when Vannett & Co. didn’t re-enact their club routine after he scored the Seahawks’ only offensive touchdown in their preseason opener.

It was a Thursday night, after all.

“Techno Thursday hasn’t really been the way I want it to be yet,” he said. “But … it’s still preseason, so we don’t want to show everything right now.”

After catching only 15 passes over his first two seasons while playing behind Graham and Willson, Vannett is in line for a larger role in 2018. He’s apparently over a nagging disc issue in his back that had plagued him, and he started Seattle’s first two preseason games while routinely working with the No. 1 offense along with rookie Will Dissly because veteran Ed Dickson has been on the non-football injury list.

Dickson, a free-agent addition from Carolina, is the oldest of Seattle’s five tight ends at 31. But Vannett is the longest tenured in Seattle, and as such, he’s taken over for Willson as the overseer of the fines. That means he has the ultimate authority on what constitutes a fine, though he says he sometimes defers when he’s on the fence.
And it also means Vannett is in charge of keeping the running tally of who owes what. He estimates that he’s already in for around $2,000, which puts him in the middle of the pack, and that Dissly has contributed around $2,700 to top the list since the start of the offseason program in April.

Dissly’s total was inflated thanks to a hefty initiation fine.

Yep, a fine for getting drafted.

“When he first came in, since he was a fourth-round pick he got some signing bonus [$650,268 to be exact], and it happened to me when I first came in. We gave him a $1,000 initiation fine,” Vannett said. “So whenever somebody new comes in the room, you get an initiation fine, and depending on what your contract was [that determines the fine amount].”

What was Dissly’s reaction?

“He was kinda smiling it off,” Vannett said. “He didn’t know what to do. I mean, what can you do? If you complain about it, it’s another fine.”

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The Seattle Seahawks have already announced the firings of their top four assistant coaches, including their two coordinators, plus a mutual parting of ways with a fifth. A few others are not expected to return as a result of the biggest overhaul of Pete Carroll’s staff since he took over as head coach in 2010.

A similarly drastic retooling of the roster could follow in the wake of a 9-7 finish that snapped Seattle’s string of five straight playoff appearances. That’s the belief among some observers and at least a few of the players themselves.

“I definitely think there’s going to be some player changes,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett recently told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle.
Michael Bennett believes big-name player changes are coming in Seattle — changes that could include the defensive lineman himself. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There are always changes to a team’s roster from one year to the next, but Bennett was talking about big changes involving big-name players.

“Earl Thomas has one year on his contract, Richard Sherman’s coming off the injury,” Bennett said. “You just never know.”

In response to Bennett on the possibility of a significant roster shake-up, tight end Luke Willson told the same station, “I would agree. Hopefully I’m not part of that turnover. I guess we’ll find out soon.”

Willson is one of 16 Seahawks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. That group also includes tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Paul Richardson, among other starters. We’ll examine their situations in the coming weeks as free agency draws nearer.

We’ve recently looked at the situations with strong safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril, whose football futures are in jeopardy because of neck injuries.

Here is a look at three other longtime Seahawks who are under contract but may not be back in 2018 for reasons including age, health, salary and/or other contractual dynamics. Like Chancellor and Avril, they’ve been key members of a Seahawks defense that allowed the fewest points in the NFL from 2012 to 2015 but slipped to third and then a tie for 13th over the past two seasons.

FS Earl Thomas

Age: Turns 29 in May

Contract status: Entering the final year of a four-year, $40 million extension

Recent comments from Thomas to ESPN set the stage for a potential holdout in the absence of a multiyear extension at his desired price. We can safely assume that price at least matches, if not tops, the $13 million average of Eric Berry’s latest deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, which he signed last offseason to become the NFL’s highest-paid safety. Thomas, coming off his sixth Pro Bowl appearance and arguably the most important player to Seattle’s defense, would be well within reason to ask for that type of compensation. The Seahawks would be well within reason to balk given the inherent risk of making that large of a financial commitment to a player who is approaching 30 and has missed seven games over the past two seasons because of three injuries. An impasse could lead the Seahawks to shop Thomas in trade talks like they did under much different circumstances with Sherman last offseason. Thomas is a once-in-a-generation player, but if he digs his heels in and if another team makes Seattle a worthwhile offer, pulling the trigger on a trade wouldn’t be out of the question even if it wouldn’t make the Seahawks better right away.

CB Richard Sherman

Age: Turns 30 in March

Contract status: Entering the final year of a four-year, $56 million extension

Sherman, like Thomas, is one of the most iconic players in franchise history. He was again playing at an All-Pro level when his season ended in November because of a ruptured Achilles. He has a good chance at being ready by the start of next season based on the typical recovery period for that injury. It should be noted that he appeared to hit the reset button during an incident-free season after a tumultuous 2016 that included a pair of sideline blowups toward coaches. All of that could work in favor of Seattle bringing Sherman back in 2018, especially because his injury figures to severely diminish his trade value. On the other hand, there are no guarantees with injuries as significant as Sherman’s. He also carries a 2018 salary-cap charge of $13.2 million with only $2.2 million in dead money, meaning the Seahawks could save a whopping $11 million if they were to cut him. They could wait to make any decision on Sherman until after free agency and the draft, which would allow them to assess their cornerback situation and Sherman’s health first.

DL Michael Bennett

Age: Turns 33 in November

Contract status: Signed through 2020 on a three-year, $30.5 million extension
It was only 14 months ago that Seattle gave Bennett a new contract that came with a raise he had been seeking since 2015, but the possibility of the Seahawks releasing him seems real despite that. He even acknowledged as much at season’s end, telling The News Tribune that he “probably won’t be back next year.” It’s not as though Bennett’s 2017 season was a disappointment. Yes, he continued to struggle with penalties, as did the Seahawks as a team. But Bennett remained a disruptive force when he wasn’t jumping offside. He finished second on the team with 8.5 sacks and again led Seattle’s defensive linemen in snaps — by a wide margin — despite playing with foot and knee injuries.

The Seahawks would incur a little over $5.2 million in dead-money charges by releasing Bennett because it’s so early in his extension. The cap savings would be just under $2.2 million, which is not much. That coupled with the strong possibility that Avril won’t be able to play again — or is released before that determination is made — could lead the Seahawks to give Bennett another season. It’s also conceivable that they bite the salary-cap bullet and move on from Bennett now with an eye toward avoiding the possibility of his age and further injury leading to a rapid decline in his effectiveness. If the Seahawks do release Bennett, expect it to happen before he’s owed a $3 million roster bonus in March.