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Bengals Linebacker Keith Rivers Defends USC And Pete Carroll

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To the outside observer (me), Pete Carroll leaving the University of Southern California for the Seattle Seahawks gave me pause. More like a "WTF" moment. Carroll's previous efforts in the NFL includes one season with the Jets (6-10) and three seasons with the Patriots between 1997-1999 that led to three non-losing seasons. Decent. But why leave USC, where you're the man, only to be eventually recycled amongst the ranks of NFL head coaches where it's harder to build the same unity and cohesion in the pros as it is in college? Not that I'm an expert or anything in the differences between a head coach in college and the pros. It just seemed to the outside observer (me) that Carroll had a sweet gig with USC. Maybe he just wanted to renew the challenge of successfully coaching in the NFL again. Maybe that's all it is.

Then the wrinkle was added. Suspicion sets in. The trouble started. An investigation led to lethal NCAA penalties that included a two-year bowl ban, 30 lost scholarships and five years on probation. Already stripped of its 2005 Orange Bowl, questions are swirling if the team will be able to keep their 2004 BCS National Championship trophy -- something that won't be determined until after the appeals process which would include vacating 14 wins between the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Not that the NCAA has anything to do with the BCS.

From the outside observer (me), it appeared that Carroll left just in the nick of time. But does this taint his record at USC in general? Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers chimed in on Tuesday, reacting to the sanctions imposed by the heavy handed NCAA.

"That's absolutely and utterly absurd," Rivers said in a telephone interview. "What does any of this have to do with what we did on the field? It doesn't have anything to do with anything."

...

"Everyone wants to call us cheaters. We didn't cheat. We dominated on the field."

Even Carson Palmer chimed in, saying that the 30 lost scholarships hurts the kids that would have received them. Now, if we can get Rivers to convert into a defensive play-maker (not just a stable tackling machine) with that same vigor that he defends his former head coach and university, we could have the best defense in the NFL. So I'm getting a little ahead of myself.