Christmas came a few days early for Seahawks fans, as the franchise re-signed iconic running back Marshawn Lynch on Monday with hopes the veteran back has enough in the tank to help them in Week 17 and the playoffs.
Now 33 years old and more than a year removed from his last NFL game with the Raiders, there’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Lynch making an impact in his return to Seattle. It’s been four years since he last wore a Seahawks uniform and much has changed since then.
Only six teammates remain from Lynch’s first stint in Seattle, including quarterback Russell Wilson, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, receiver Tyler Lockett, tight end Luke Willson, and running back Robert Turbin, who was also just re-signed to help offset season-ending injuries to Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise.
Though he sat out the 2016 season in a brief retirement, there’s more wear and tear on Lynch’s tire treads as he toted the rock 297 times in two seasons in Oakland. He’s also prioritized building his Beast Mode clothing brand and other business ventures along with traveling the world, leaving many to question his motives for returning to the field again.
But while Lynch isn’t going to be the same back who rushed for 1,200 yards or more in four consecutive seasons or bulldozed through defenders on his famous “Beast Quake” run against New Orleans in the 2010 Wild Card round, coach Pete Carroll believes he’s all-in and well-prepared to contribute for Seattle.
“What I need to hear from him is where his heart is. Is he in it and wants to go for it? Which, he totally does, and he’s worked to prove that. I don’t doubt him one bit about that. He’s very sincere about how he presents himself to this game. It’s very important for him to be at his best and do well. He’s going to do everything he can to make that happen.”
Though Lynch played in just six games for Oakland last season, his overall production on a bad football team indicated he still had plenty of juice left in his legs. He rushed for 376 yards and three touchdowns, which would’ve put him on pace for his first 1,000-yard season since 2014, while also catching 15 passes for 84 yards out of the backfield.
Still running like a freight train as he has throughout his NFL career, Lynch regularly plowed through defenders and still had enough explosiveness to break a 58-yard run against the Browns last season.
Unfortunately, a groin injury ended Lynch’s season after the Raiders lost to the Seahawks in London and he was placed on injured reserve. He eventually underwent surgery and didn’t sign with anyone in free agency, appearing to unofficially retire once again.
But according to Carroll, Lynch immediately started a rehab program to work himself back into shape after surgery. He ramped up those efforts recently hoping he’d have a chance to play by the end of the season and injuries suffered by Carson and Prosise last weekend created that opportunity.
“He’s in a really good spot for coming and going for it,” Carroll said. “He was very serious about getting ready for this opportunity. At the stroke of misfortune on some regards really opens the door, which it happens at times. He’s ready to take the full opportunity at hand and see what he can do to help us.”
The Seahawks don’t need Lynch to be the “Beast Mode” of old to make this a worthwhile reunion. He’s not going to be asked to take over as the bell cow back at this stage of his career, especially considering he hasn’t played in 15 months.
But if Lynch can serve as a wrecking ball on 10-12 carries to complement explosive rookie Travis Homer, who Carroll said Seattle will now “lean” on with Carson, Penny, and Prosise sidelined, his return could help the team maintain a semblance of balance on offense. And as Wagner pointed out, Lynch is one of those rare backs who can also energize the defense thanks to his bruising, physical style of play.
“We feed off it a lot. Watching him run the ball and you see some of the defensive players you look up to get ran over by him, it definitely sends some energy into the building. You see him break a long run after four or five tackles is pretty dope. I’m pretty sure he can do that again.”
Most importantly? Lynch’s arrival should ignite a fan base that desperately needed a jolt after a disheartening home loss to the Cardinals last Sunday. With the first-place 49ers coming to CenturyLink Field in the season finale, Carroll envisions his presence bringing out the best in the 12s with an NFC West title on the line.
“He’s impacted a lot of people around here and people love the Seahawks. He’s been something very special. I’m thrilled for the fans that they’re having fun with it and all that. I’ll be really thrilled if he knocks out 110 in the ball game.”