RENTON — The Marshawn Lynch who walked into the VMAC Tuesday, again officially a member of the Seahawks, is now 33, almost four years older than the last time he called Seattle an NFL home.
To hear Pete Carroll tell it, he’s also a bit wiser, having spent much of the interim traveling the world and experiencing a little non-football life.
He also had a new place in the locker room, stationed now next to Bobby Wagner on the defensive side of the room.
But to one of the five other players remaining who was with the team when Lynch was last a Seahawk, it was like nothing had changed.
“He looked good,’’ said linebacker K.J. Wright. “He’s got the same tempo. In walk-through he was just out there nice and easy, kicking it. And I believe come Sunday he’s going to be looking like the Marshawn we know him to be.’’
And after his first practice with the Seahawks, Lynch proved some things indeed are still the same during a typically eccentric, short — and yet, still undeniably memorable — meeting with the media.
Lynch stepped to the microphone, apparently ready to answer questions. He took one, asked what brought him back to the Seahawks.
“Happy Holidays,’’ Lynch answered. “Merry New Year. You all have a great day. It’s a great feeling to be back.’’
And with that, Lynch turned and headed back into his new/old locker room, putting an official — and fitting — capper to the first practice of his second life with the Seahawks.
The practice began with Lynch bringing up the rear of the tailback line during early warmup exercises, then catching a few passes from backup quarterback Geno Smith while standing next to Russell Wilson.
The sight of Wilson and Lynch together indeed conjured up all the memories of the glory days of old — the fabulous charge to the playoffs in 2012 when Lynch had his greatest season with Seattle, gaining a career-high 1,590 yards, and the literal and figurative runs to the Super Bowl the following two years.
Whether Lynch can really turn back the clock — even for just a game or two — is the inevitable and most intriguing question that hangs over what is one of the most storied reunions in Seattle sports history.
The Seahawks’ season may depend on it as Seattle will go nowhere fast without an effective running game. It was the decimation of its backfield over the last three — the loss of Rashaad Penny to a knee injury against the Rams and then Chris Carson (hip) ad C.J. Prosise (arm) against the Cardinals — that led to the team officially reaching out to Lynch.
But after the shock of the reality that Lynch was actually returning to Seattle wore off, it became apparent that this was a move that had been much longer in the making than just the last 24 hours.
During a news conference before practice, coach Pete Carroll said the team had actually kept the lines of communication open with Lynch ever since he retired for the first time on Super Bowl Sunday following the 2015 season — his last in Seattle.
Lynch returned after one year off to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders in 2017 and 2018 before suffering a season-ending injury in a game against Seattle in London on Oct. 14 last year.
He became a free agent when his contract lapsed and one report stated that he was retired other than if the Raiders might want him back.
But to hear Carroll tell it, the door was always open throughout that time for Lynch to come back to Seattle.
Asked Tuesday how long the idea of Lynch returning to the Seahawks had been a possibility, Carroll smiled and said “he’s been gone how many years? Really, there have been times over the years that we have hooked up for one reason or another and played against each other or whatever, there were always a couple of messages in there that went back and forth, some texts and stuff.’’
Lynch actually visited the VMAC the week following Penny’s injury on Dec. 8. The visit was portrayed solely as Lynch catching up with some old friends, and Carroll said Tuesday “at that time he just dropped in, he was in town and all that. … He blew through. I didn’t see him.’’
But Carroll acknowledged that Lynch had been ardently keeping in shape of late with an eye on potentially joining the Seahawks in case the need arose.
Lynch posted a video on his YouTube site Monday night indicating he had specifically amped up his workouts in recent weeks with the thought that he could join the Seahawks, hinting his initial thought was that he could complement Carson for the stretch drive.
“He’s been working out, staying in shape all along and he stepped it up with just maybe the hopes that something could happen at the end of this season,’’ Carroll said. “And he was very fortunate to get the opportunity.’’
The buzz that Lynch could rejoin the Seahawks first surfaced almost immediately after the 27-13 loss to Cardinals and the accompanying news that Carson and Prosise would be lost for the season.
Lynch flew to Seattle Monday morning to meet with Carroll and general manager John Schneider, take a physical and go through what Carroll called “movement workouts.’’
Lynch’s 2018 season ended due to a core muscle injury, the same injury he suffered in 2015 in his last year with Seattle when he had surgery and went on injured reserve.
Carroll said Lynch had surgery last year to again repair the injury and that as soon as he was healed he began a workout program “so he wouldn’t fall apart post-surgery.’’
Seattle also signed former Seahawk Robert Turbin to replenish the tailback position and also brought in C.J. Anderson — who helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl last season — for a workout, apparently in case things didn’t work out with Lynch for one reason for another.
But it appears there was very little real doubt things would work out with Lynch.
Carroll said he heard and saw everything he needed from Lynch. Carroll said Lynch “looks great’’ and that “his weight is down,” though he said he’d need to see a few practices before being able to say what he expects out of Lynch on the field Sunday in a winner-take-all game for the NFC West division title against the 49ers.
But what he heard from Lynch Monday had Carroll thinking that the team may indeed see the Lynch of old.
“The meeting we had yesterday to set this thing in motion was memorable for me,’’ Carroll said. “The stuff we went through and talked about. To hear where he is now and what he’s been through. He’s been through a lot in his personal life. … 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.”