Thomas Rawls is back fully participating in the Seahawks' offseason program after sitting out last year while recovering from an ankle injury.
It was an answer that captured the essence of Thomas Rawls at his best — fun, exuberant, confident but not necessarily cocky.
The question? What does Rawls think about the pending battle for playing time at tailback with former Green Bay Packer Pro Bowler Eddie Lacy added in the offseason.
“If there was a depth chart with three selective players, I look at it as Thomas Rawls, Thomas Rawls and Thomas Rawls,’’ Rawls said when he talked to reporters following the Seahawks’ final OTA (Organized Team Activity) Friday.
“I’ve always been in competition with myself. I just believe that this program, this whole organization has a mindset of competition. We believe that as long as people compete they will earn whatever they deserve in the end. It’ll work itself out.”
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And while the question of how that battle will unfold is among the most intriguing as the Seahawks head into the off-season — especially for those who want to start setting their fantasy rosters now — all the team cares about is that ultimately the tailback position is steadier and more consistent and productive than a year ago.
So far, the Seahawks like what they have seen.
Rawls, who battled through an injury-riddled second season with the Seahawks, has pronounced himself essentially fully recovered from the ailments of 2016, which included a broken fibula suffered in the second game. Rawls also was still struggling to get completely past a broken ankle suffered late in the 2015 season (the hardware keeping the ankle together, he said, remains in place) which had limited his ability to get in shape heading into the season.
“I feel even better,’’ Rawls said. “I actually get an offseason. I just remember coming off those injuries and everything, it was kind of tough. You also learn from being a professional and in a way, it kind of humbles you in a lot of different ways. I’ve been having a great offseason and I’ve been feeling way better moving a lot, taking no days off and getting back to the grind.’’
A year ago at this time, Rawls could do little but watch OTAs. Now, he’s part of a happily crowded backfield that also includes Lacy and second-year players C.J. Prosise (also healthy after battling injuries throughout last season) and Alex Collins.
Lacy has likewise been active throughout the offseason, so far appearing on track to be ready for the season after suffering an ankle injury last October that required surgery.
Lacy also has so far been meeting weight clauses the team inserted in his contract designed in part to spur his recovery from the ankle injury.
Lacy weighed in at 253 last month, just under a 255 needed to earn $55,000.
As reported by ESPN.com, Lacy has another weigh-in on Monday (June 12) when he will need to be under 250 (a weight he will also have to reach in July and August). The team wants him in the 240 range for the season.
A healthy Rawls and an in-shape Lacy will make for, as Rawls put it Friday, “a high-intensity’’ competition for the starter’s job, with Prosise likely still ticketed largely for a specialty role as a third-down and two-minute back, though with the team not ruling out he could factor into the everydown back spot, as well (his unique receiving skills were on display Friday when he snuck behind the Seahawks’ starting secondary to reel in a long touchdown pass from Russell Wilson).
How the Rawls/Lacy battle unfolds this year will also go a long way toward shaping the future of Seattle’s tailback position.
Lacy has just a one-year prove-it deal, which includes $2.865 million guaranteed and another $2.685 in incentives, from the Seahawks.
Rawls, meanwhile, can be a restricted free agent following the 2017 season, with the Seahawks able to give him a longer-term deal if they want (Prosise and Collins, as rookies a year ago, have contracts through the 2019 season).
Either way, the Seahawks will have major decisions to make at the tailback spot following the season.
They’ll be more than happy if the play of Rawls and Lacy makes them really tough ones.
Rawls says that’s the plan. Not only is he healthier but he also says he understands better how to prepare his body for the rigors of an NFL season. He also has worked on his receiving, saying he wants to be an everydown player who doesn’t have to come off the field on passing downs.
“Take care of yourself, take care of your body and as long as you prepare mentally, the physical side of the game is going to be okay,’’ Rawls sais. “That’s one thing that I pride myself on also in the offseason, just being at peace and understanding the game more at the running back position. Now as I’m out there, I get to play faster, I get to run my routes right, I get to be in a passing offense a little more. That’s one thing I prided myself on this offseason, it was very beneficial. That’s one thing that I’ve done.”