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Originally published May 20, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Page modified May 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM

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Pete Carroll on Seahawks' off-field problems: "It's real serious"

News that backup QB Josh Portis' had been charged with DUI on May 4 follows Friday's announcement of Bruce Irvin being suspended four games for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Even before Seahawks coach Pete Carroll could address one off-field blemish, news of another was revealed Monday.

Bruce Irvin's four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs Friday was followed by news of backup quarterback Josh Portis' recent arrest on suspicion of DUI. Those back-to-back events led Carroll to deliver an impassioned opening statement after the Seahawks' first official organized team activity on Monday.

"It's serious. It's real serious," Carroll said, concluding a five-minute statement to media, "and we need to let you know that we understand that."

The Seahawks have been criticized widely since Irvin's suspension. ESPN noted it was the fifth time since 2010 that a Seahawks player had been suspended for using PED's, most in the NFL.

The multiple suspensions could be mean a fine from the NFL for the Seahawks. "There are financial consequences for a team that has multiple players suspended in a season under those policies," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an NFL.com story Monday.

Carroll defended the team's policies. "We go beyond what the league does," he said. "We go well past what the guidelines ask us to do as far as working with the young guys and trying to give them the direction, trying to give them the counseling."

But Carroll suggested the message may not be getting through and the team may need to re-evaluate what it does.

He said the Seahawks will have to "continually, continually (re-evaluate), because it's not right yet. We all know that there are big issues, and it's not just here and it's not just in this sport. It's in all sports. It's in schools. It's everywhere. We have to figure it out and try to help through education and through all of the ways that we can. And we will always compete to find more creative ways to make the message clear."

With the Seahawks regarded as a Super Bowl contender by many, Carroll said it's even more imperative for players to do the right thing off the field.

"These guys are at a point where they have worked really hard to grow together and establish the kind of makeup on the team that gives you a chance to do good things," he said. "... But with that also comes the responsibility to handle it well, and over the years I have seen what it takes to be consistently on top."

Both Irvin and Portis practiced with the team Monday. Irvin spent considerable time working with the first defense at defensive end with specific pass-rushing duties.

Portis, contending for a backup quarterback job, split reps with Brady Quinn behind Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks, though, will have to make plans to be without Irvin as they navigate a first quarter of the season that includes games against the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans. On Monday, Irvin apologized to the team for his PED suspension.

Complicating issues is free-agent signee Cliff Avril, who would be first in line to take over for Irvin, sat out Monday after having suffered a plantar-fascia injury about a month ago. He could be out a few more weeks.

Veteran Chris Clemons, who can also play that role, is rehabilitating a torn ACL injured in the NFC playoff win over Washington. The Seahawks are also experimenting with linebacker Malcolm Smith there.

Carroll acknowledged that depth at that position is suddenly an issue. "It's going to impact (us)," he said of the four-game loss of Irvin, who had eight sacks last season as a rookie.

"But we are fortunate in that we also are working our roster in that regard, too. We have some young guys that we are excited about. But it's going to fall on Cliff Avril, first, and Cliff will be back in a couple of weeks, and he is in good shape to make it back. Clem's (Clemons) going to make it back. We won't know about him for a while. We will have to figure that out when the time comes."

Carroll said he has already had meetings with some team leaders about trying to keep players on the right path off the field.

Quarterback Russell Wilson said that coaches and the organization can only do so much.

"We have to make the right decision as players," Wilson said. "It's up to us to make the right decision. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the coaches say, positively or negatively or whatever."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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