The Seattle Seahawks might have been in the playoff picture last season had it not been for a terrible start. Now, Pete Carroll's team has to hope that Marshawn Lynch's recent run-in with the law doesn't doom it to another stumble out of the gate.
Lynch was arrested over the weekend in California on suspicion of a DUI. It was one of the latest incidents in a long line of off-the-field transgressions by NFL players this offseason, but for Lynch and the Seahawks, the effects could be felt into September. That's because Lynch already has one league-mandated suspension under his belt -- he sat out the first three games of the 2009 season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge, which Roger Goodell deemed a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy.
That's enough to potentially make Lynch a repeat offender in Goodell's eyes. Which means that, unless Lynch is proven innocent here, another suspension may be just around the corner. The NFL's current policy punishes a first DUI offense with a fine, but Lynch's history could prove problematic.
How long Goodell might sideline Lynch is anyone's guess -- he recently handed down a two-game suspension to Detroit running back Mikel Leshoure after he was arrested twice this offseason.
But even a one-gamer for Lynch could serve as a major blow to Seattle's 2012 season. Lynch took care of 285 of the Seahawks' 444 total rushes last season and gained nearly 1,000 yards more (1,204) than the next most productive ball-carrier, Leon Washington (248).
In other words, this isn't exactly a two-back system. Seattle's one game sans Lynch in 2011 resulted in a 6-3 loss to Cleveland, a game in which the Seahawks mustered a season-low 137 total yards.
Washington returns this year and Seattle nabbed Utah State bruiser Robert Turbin in the fourth round of the draft, but the plan is for those guys to act as complementary pieces to Lynch. Neither is being groomed to carry the load.
Seattle's schedule opens with a road game at Arizona, then home tilts against Dallas and Green Bay. While the Cowboys/Packers back-to-back is a marquee stretch, the Seahawks' intra-division Week 1 matchup with the Cardinals is arguably more important. The Seahawks play their first three NFC West games on the road -- at Arizona, at St. Louis in Week 4 and at San Francisco in Week 7. Dropping that initial game would put Seattle in a hole ... again.
The fact that Seattle just handed Lynch a four-year, $31 million contract with $17 million in guaranteed money only makes this whole situation harder to swallow. Suffice it to say, this is not what the Seahawks had in mind when they re-upped their No. 1 running back.
The Seahawks won't push the panic button just yet, as we may not know of a possible Lynch punishment for several weeks. And it's possible that Seattle can find a way to overcome Lynch's absence and win a game or two, or that Carroll's bunch can bounce back after a couple of early setbacks. For a team hoping to jump up and surprise people this year, though, Seattle knows Lynch's alleged mistake throws another hurdle on the track.