The Seattle Seahawks on Friday night ruled running back Marshawn Lynch out of Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The comeback path of running back Marshawn Lynch took a strange turn Friday when he told the Seahawks after practice that he couldn’t play and did not accompany the team to Minnesota for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game against the Vikings.
The Seahawks indicated all week that Lynch, who underwent abdominal surgery Nov. 25, would return for the game. He was listed as a full participant for Friday’s practice and could be seen afterward shooting baskets with the Seahawks’ other tailbacks during coach Pete Carroll’s news conference.
But Lynch did not board a bus to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and did not make the flight to Minneapolis with the Seahawks. The Seahawks released a statement Friday night that said Lynch had been declared out and added, “Following our final workout Friday he felt like he couldn’t play.”
Carroll had sent mixed signals during the day about Lynch’s availability.
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Carroll said during his radio show Friday morning on KIRO 97.3 that: “He’s going to play. And he’s looked really good in practice. He’s practiced as hard as he ever has throughout the week just to prove to himself that he was right, I think, as well as everybody else. So he’s ready to go, and we are anxious to see him fit in.”
But when he met the media around 2 p.m. following practice Carroll said: “I have not said yet that he’s playing. I know that’s been out there, but I don’t know until we finish the week. He’s looked really good, and we’re hoping so. Very optimistic about it.”
Lynch was listed as a full participant for practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and coaches said they thought there was no reason he couldn’t assume his regular role in the offense.
But after practice Friday, Carroll said, “I don’t know really’’ if Lynch would play against the Vikings and added that the team would have to assess how he responds to a full week of work.
“He’s questionable,” Carroll said. “We got to go tomorrow and make sure he’s OK after today, that same old thing. We just want to see how he’s taking to the week’s work and all of that. He looked good during the week and did some really good stuff, but we’ll just use all of the time that we have available.”
That Lynch was able to fully participate in practices week — something he rarely does during the season — had sent further signals that he would be back.
And the rest of Carroll’s comments about Lynch indicated nothing but optimism.
“It’s been a great week,’’ Carroll said. “He’s taken every rep that we needed him to this week.’’
Carroll said Lynch appeared a little leaner than when he was with the team earlier this season and added, “He looks really good, really trim. And that’s a sign of the hard work and him being really tuned into it. He does look very good.’’
But for now, the Seahawks will have to wait at least one more week — if there is another week — to get Lynch back.
Lynch has played in just seven games this season and not since since the Nov. 15 home loss to Arizona. He had abdominal surgery Nov. 25 in Philadelphia and then spent much of the next month or so in the Bay Area working out with MMA trainer Tareq Azim.
The team said it was OK with that arrangement, noting that Azim has a close relationship with Seattle offensive-line coach and run-game coordinator Tom Cable and that Lynch had worked with Azim in previous offseasons.
That the arrangement seemed different was evident, though, on one Wednesday when Carroll told the media Lynch was not with the team yet, only for the media a few hours later to walk to practice and see Lynch watching the workout through a window.
Carroll referred to Lynch as “off-site” and “at-large” during the time he was rehabbing in the Bay Area.
The team initially seemed to indicate Lynch would return in time for the regular-season finale against Arizona on Jan. 3. But it was announced during that week that Lynch would not be back with the hope he would return for the playoffs.
Lynch came back Monday to much fanfare, including a tweet from his agent Doug Hendrickson that “He’s baaaaaaa cckkkk!”
Some wondered about the impact of a Lynch return on a team that flourished without him. The Seahawks went 6-1 in the games he sat out, scoring 29 or more points in each of the wins, the loss a 23-17 mistake-filled defeat at home to St. Louis. But a season-ending broken ankle suffered by Thomas Rawls at Baltimore on Dec. 13 lent some urgency for a return by Lynch. The Seahawks the following week singed Michael and Brown, who each have had some good moments since — Michael rushing for a career-high 102 yards in last Sunday’s 36-6 win at Arizona.
Cable said during Lynch’s absence that when he returned it would be up to him to adapt to the way the team had come together during his absence.
Cable said then that Lynch’s biggest challenge would be “for him to come back in and be able to adapt to this football team and the way it is and the way it acts and the way it’s moving right now collectively. And so that will be his challenge. But right now his Number One goal his getting healthy.’’
Asked how much of a challenge it will be for Lynch to be productive given how long he has been out, Cable said: “I think if he’s right and ready to go and all that — I’ve said this before, he’s a fine football player. So it’s his ability to adapt to us, really, who we are and how we’ve come together as a group and as a team.’’
Cable also delivered an interesting response when asked how the team had changed during its offensive surge without Lynch.
Cable, though, said Wednesday that Lynch had been “fantastic. He’s adapted very well” since returning.
Lynch had done enough that Carroll had reiterated Friday that if Lynch was ready to play that there was no reason he couldn’t have a usual workload against the Vikings.
“If he’s playing, he’s playing,’’Carroll said. “And we’ll see how that works out. We are encouraged by his work. … This would be like the first game of the year, as we would approach, so we have been here before with him, and I know we know how to handle that.”
But Friday night the team ruled out Lynch out, and the Seahawks will now go with Christine Michael, Bryce Brown and Fred Jackson as the tailbacks against the Vikings.
Lynch has considered retiring after each of the previous two seasons. But he re-committed to the Seahawks last March when he signed a three-year, $31 million deal that included a guaranteed $12 million for the 2015 season ($7.5 million signing bonus, $4.5 salary).
There has been much speculation that the team will consider releasing Lynch at the end of this season. Lynch has $5 million in dead money against the salary cap for 2016, but the Seahawks could save $6.5 million against the cap by releasing him.
Lynch, who will turn 30 on April 22, has 9,112 yards in his career with the Seahawks and Buffalo, and 6,347 with Seattle to rank fourth on the team’s all-time rushing list behind Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner and Chris Warren.
He also has six 100-yard games in the playoffs, all with the Seahawks, third-most in NFL history behind Terrell Davis and Emmitt Smith and tied with John Riggins and Thurman Thomas.
Friday marked the fifth anniversary of his first great moment as a Seahawk— and maybe his most memorable — his 67-yard Beast Quake run against the New Orleans Saints in a wild-card playoff game.