Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s decision not to play Sunday in Minnesota, leaves us with a troubling question: Could this be the end for Beast Mode in Seattle?
Marshawn Lynch will eventually get his No. 24 raised to the rafters of CenturyLink Field with the rest of the Seahawks’ Legion of Honor.
Time heals all wounds. Just ask another No. 24, Ken Griffey Jr., who was basking in a wave of love and adoration in Seattle at almost precisely the same time Friday that Lynch’s unexpected and puzzling absence from the Seahawks’ team flight to Minneapolis came to light.
Eventually, it was announced that Lynch will miss Sunday’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, of his own volition. After a week of seemingly fruitful practices in the wake of abdominal surgery seven weeks ago, Lynch informed the team — which by all indications was gobsmacked by the news — that he was unable to play against the Vikings.
Marshawn Lynch by the numbers
29 Lynch’s age. He turns 30 on April 22.
9 Seasons in the NFL, six with the Seahawks.
917 Rushing yards in 10 postseason games with the Seahawks, a team record.
9 Rushing touchdowns scored in the playoffs by Lynch, also a team record.
If this is the end for Lynch in Seattle — not a certainty but a definite possibility — it will be a messy conclusion to a stellar career, much like Griffey’s abrupt departure from the Mariners in June 2010. That came three weeks after the explosive story of him sleeping in the clubhouse during a game, and induced the temporary scorn of many of the same fans who had worshipped him.
But there was Griffey on Friday, walking a red carpet lined with admiring Mariners employees en route to a news conference where it was announced that his number was being retired throughout the Mariners’ organization. That news followed a near-unanimous Hall of Fame selection that was celebrated by Mariners’ fans.
One day, Lynch’s nearly-six years of on-field heroics for the Seahawks will rightfully dominate his legacy. But right now, on the eve of the Seahawks’ most important game of the season, with their playoff life on the line, we’re left with a host of questions.
Why did Pete Carroll declare on his radio show Friday morning that Lynch was “going to play” and what happened in the interim to change things? Why didn’t Lynch board the plane Friday to see how he progressed before Sunday, at the very least to root on his teammates in the game?
His agent, Doug Hendrickson, provided some answers Saturday, telling Bob Condotta that Lynch suffered a “little tweak” in Friday’s practice and opted to stay home to facilitate further rehab and training.
That may not satisfy the conspiracy theorists out there, but I believe Lynch has earned the benefit of the doubt. Up to this point of his Seattle career, no one can question his courage or effort. It’s there for the world to see in his performance for the Seahawks. That includes game after game of postseason excellence, starting with the legendary Beast Quake run against New Orleans in his very first playoff game that actually caused seismographic activity at CenturyLink Field.
That ushered in a series of beastly playoff performances by Lynch. There was the 132-yard effort in a win over Washington in 2012. The 140 yards (a Seahawk postseason record at the time) and two touchdowns in a victory over the Saints in 2013. The 157-yard explosion in last year’s come-from-behind NFC title triumph over Green Bay.
And, of course, the 102 yards against New England in the Super Bowl that was one carry short.
Certainly, his teammates revere him, despite his foibles. Richard Sherman did a good job this week of summing up the players’ point of view on Lynch and dismissing any semblance of doubt about how he handled his rehabilitation.
“He’s a guy that’s as selfless as they come, will go out there and put his body on the line for his teammates,’’ Sherman said. “That’s why guys don’t worry or stress about Marshawn not being here when he’s rehabbing or what he’s hurt or things like that. … We know that guy is one of the best teammates you would ever have, playing for any team, any level, any spot, and he will do whatever he can to help this team win.”
But we sometimes forget that NFL players aren’t supermen, though it can seem that way. Lynch had major surgery less than two months ago. If his body is telling him after three days of hard practice that he can’t go, it’s not the act of treason that some fans seem to be accusing him of. If there’s more going on, like a rift between Lynch and the team as Hall of Famer Michael Irvin intimated (adamantly denied by Hendrickson), well, that’s troubling.
Of course, we’ll likely never get Lynch’s point of view, because he doesn’t communicate with the media except in extremely rare circumstances. (It would be interesting to hear from Lynch, for instance, how he was able to play a little basketball after the setback during Friday’s workout).
Throughout his career, the Seahawks have allowed Lynch to play by his own rules to a certain extent, which has worked beautifully to coax tremendous performances. But it can come back to bite you in an unorthodox situation where he did his rehab “off-site” and “at-large,” in Carroll’s words, under the auspices of an MMA trainer, Tareq Azim.
Now Lynch’s future is more muddled than ever. If the Seahawks win Sunday in Minnesota, they’ll have to go through this whole drama again next week. If they lose, it’s hard to imagine Lynch coming back, considering his diminished production this season at an age when running backs typically break down. Not to mention the salary-cap hit the Seahawks could avoid by releasing a player who would make $9 million in 2016.
If that’s the case, and this is really the end, then this tempest will eventually wane, and Lynch’s achievements will take precedent, just as Griffey’s did.
But right now, it’s just about that inaction, Boss.