RENTON — For as important as Marshawn Lynch is to the Seahawks, it sure feels normal when he’s missing.
Only the eccentric Beast Mode could manage to be such an enormous presence on the field and such a recluse off it. If it’s not game day, he disappears into a world you probably don’t want to know, maintaining media silence and often straying from his team. The understanding is that, on Sunday, he’ll be there — and be there with more passion than any player. And for the rest of the time, well, isn’t the uncertainty a fair trade for his production?
Lynch will never be the face of the Seahawks because he’s numb to the responsibility. He is to them what his nickname suggests: a creature that you let roam until he’s ready to destroy the opposition. He’s a wild thing that you can’t restrain if you want the best of him, but you’re in constant fear of getting burned for the freedom you allow.
For four years, this has worked for the team and its star running back. For four years, this franchise has been the Seahawks, featuring Marshawn Lynch. Everyone has been fine with it because it’s impossible to replicate the game-changing effort he displays.
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But as the defending champions opened training camp Friday, with Lynch in Holdout Mode and nowhere to be found, there was an eerie feel to the team’s mild-mannered reactions to his absence.
The message was clear, if subtle.
As much as the Seahawks love Lynch, they won’t placate him by agreeing to his monetary demands, even if the decision leads to a difficult (and potential repeat championship-squashing) goodbye.
It’s up to Lynch to make this right, which is quite scary given his unpredictability.
“Yeah, we’re disappointed that he’s not here, by his choice, you know,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, emphasizing that this is Lynch’s prerogative. “We’ve had a substantial plan working for us for years now, and Marshawn was a big part of this plan, and just a couple of years back, we made a big statement about making a big effort for him. We wish he was with us now. But this is a tremendous opportunity for the guys who will be getting their shot.”
Interestingly, general manager John Schneider made similar remarks about this being Lynch’s choice during a radio interview on 710 ESPN.
“He’s made a decision not to be here,” Schneider said on the “Brock and Salk” show Friday morning. “We’re really excited about the guys that are here.”
Did the Seahawks really use “Next Man Up” on Lynch?
After listening to Carroll and Schneider discuss their star running back, it’s obvious that, barring major injuries to running backs Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, they’re unwilling to abandon their steadfast team-building business philosophies. They believe they’ve been a great partner to Lynch, bringing him from Buffalo banishment, making him the centerpiece of a Super Bowl winner and awarding him with a four-year, $41 million deal in 2012 that still has two years remaining.
The franchise hasn’t just embraced Lynch’s peculiar ways. It has celebrated them and created an atmosphere for one of the best reinvention tales in recent NFL history.
If Lynch is really asking for just a slight bump in pay ($1 million or so), he needs to weigh that demand against this truth: He’ll never be treated better than he has been in Seattle.
His holdout is just an attempt at negotiation right now, and there’s nothing wrong with an employee making a plea for more money. And while the Seahawks can claim that a contract is a contract, and Lynch should honor it, they also can’t deny that, like all NFL teams, they consider it good business to cut players with time left on their contracts. There is no such thing as honoring an NFL contract.
“I hate the ‘but you signed the contract’ argument,” Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin wrote on Twitter on Friday, clearly disgusted with that portion of the Lynch conversation. “Players can’t say that (expletive) when organizations cut them.”
But Lynch also must consider the big picture. He must ponder what’s best for his wallet, now and in the future. He must determine the value of playing for a team that both understands and embraces him. He must decide what the pursuit of a second championship means to him.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are talking about him in past tense. It was inadvertent, probably. But they don’t seem afraid of life after Lynch.
“The attitude that he’s brought in the last few years has been significant,” Carroll said. “When we were trying to make our mark as a physical football team, he stood right at the front of that.”
Where will Lynch stand now?
It’s his choice.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.