Balmer hasn't talked to NCAA
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer said he hasn't spoken with the NCAA about its investigation of North Carolina and that questions about his relationship with two of his former college teammates is "really not fair."
As the NCAA investigates whether defensive tackle Marvin Austin and receiver Greg Little received improper benefits from agents, questions have arisen about a cross-country trip taken by Austin and former Tar Heel Cam Thomas last summer.
Thomas -- now a rookie with the San Diego Chargers -- said Balmer paid for them to travel to California and train, though Balmer declined to say whether he did so in an interview with The Associated Press.
Balmer, clearly bothered by investigation, said the NCAA has yet to contact him and said both Austin and Thomas were like family to him.
"It's really not fair because, like I said, the bond I have, they're as good as blood to me," Balmer said during the Seahawks training camp. "Even though we're not blood-related, I'd go out there and lay it on the line for them at any time, at any situation.
"Those are my guys. And for us to be scrutinized ... for having a friendship and a brotherhood is just real upsetting and real frustrating."
Balmer played two seasons with Thomas and was a senior during Austin's freshman year in 2007, which was also coach Butch Davis' first season in Chapel Hill. He was a first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2008, though he went on unexcused leave from 49ers' training camp last week and was traded to Seattle on Monday.
All three played defensive tackle at North Carolina under line coach John Blake, whose longtime friendship with Balmer's agent -- California-based Gary Wichard -- has also drawn the NCAA's attention.
It's unclear whether the trip would violate the NCAA rule prohibiting preferential treatment for athletes. Both Thomas and Austin played in all 13 games last year, raising the question of whether the Tar Heels would have to vacate their eight wins from 2009 for using ineligible players if the NCAA ruled it a violation.
But Balmer said he has remained close to Austin since hosting his recruiting visit as a nationally touted prep prospect and since meeting Thomas at a football camp when Thomas was still in high school. Balmer said he remained in touch with both players before their arrivals at North Carolina.
"I mean, people don't understand the bond I have with these guys," Balmer said. "When speculation happened with the 49ers, they were the first ones to call me. Cam's in camp. Marvin's in camp. But they made time to call me because they looked at me as their big brother and I looked at them as my little brothers. So anything they're going through, I'm with them. ... I just think it's a lot of speculation going on and I'm pretty sure the truth will come to light."
Austin and Little have been practicing with the Tar Heels' second team during training camp as they prepare for the opener against LSU in Atlanta on Sept. 4
Davis has declined to talk about the investigation or whether he'd sit either one if the NCAA hasn't ruled by then, but he said the team will begin focusing more on the Tigers on Monday.
"We'll have to give some serious consideration and see if there's been any kind of revelation from the NCAA at that particular point and we'll make a decision at that time if we have to," Davis said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press