HOUSTON — When your body isn’t working, your mind often works overtime. 

Thoughts that were once inconceivable find a way of sneaking into your head. 

Take Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny, who, not so long ago, asked himself if he should keep playing football. Fortunately for him, he answered with an emphatic yes. 

If you want a feel-good story in this not-so-feel-good season, look no further than Penny’s Sunday performance. His 137 yards on 16 carries — two of which resulted in touchdowns — were an ode to perseverance. 

The former first-round pick has spent the better part of his career stuck on the sideline, saddled with injures to his knee, hamstring, finger — you name it. But he didn’t look like a bust in the Seahawks’ 33-13 win over the Texans. A beast is a more apt description. 

“Great, great day to see Rashaad Penny come out like that. And we’re so happy to see that. We’ve been waiting. Y’all have been waiting, too,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. “You can see the explosion and the playmaking that he’s got in him was on full display today.” 


Penny rushed for 9 yards on his first carry Sunday then rattled off a 13-yard run one play later. The Seahawks (5-8) ended up making a field goal by drive’s end. 

On Seattle’s next drive, Penny ran it 32 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 10-7 lead. It was his first TD in 740 days. Efficiency has rarely been the issue for the fourth-year player. It has always been his health. Penny missed six games in 2019, 13 games last season and seven this season. 

When he plays, he produces, having racked up 1,044 yards on 204 career carries — good for 5.1 yards per run. But the injury bug has treated his body like an all-you-can-eat buffet. 

That would take a toll on any player, but the burden has to be heavier for one picked in round No. 1. And when momentum would build — as it did in his second year, when Penny averaged 5.7 yards per carry — a blow to his ACL would derail his season. 

The Penny we saw Sunday, however, was a picture of health. He was dishing out the punishment rather than enduring it — breaking tackles and stiff-arming pursuers.

His 137 rushing yards were the most by a Seahawk since 2015. And when he capped the game with a 47-yard touchdown run on Seattle’s penultimate drive, he became the first Seahawk to have two touchdown runs of 30 yards or more in the same game since 1997.


Hard to have a better afternoon than that. Even his brother Elijhaa, a fullback for the Giants, scored a touchdown Sunday.

Good day for the family, huh? asked a reporter. 

“Perfect day,” Penny said. 

What’s this all been like for you mentally?

“Mentally, (it’s been) an emotional roller coaster. Days where you’re like, ‘Should I continue to play football?’ And then other days where it’s like, ‘I gotta go in and do what’s best for me,'” Penny said. “Man, it’s been hard — hamstring strains, calf strains — but I just put my head down and kept moving forward.”

Tempting as it might be for Penny to peek at how the public has reacted to Sunday’s game, he might resist the urge. On Sunday, he said that social media was his biggest problem during his first two years in the league, as barrages of negative comments tore him down. 

The tweets are a whole lot kinder at the moment, but there’s no real reason to comb through them. As Penny said — those people don’t know what he’s about.

Although they might be starting to learn. There is a caveat here, of course. The Texans (2-11) are awful. They are particularly awful on run defense, as they entered the game having given up more rushing yards per game than any other team in the NFL.


This doesn’t mean Penny’s game should be dismissed — he was outstanding Sunday. But a similar stat line against the Ravens or the Bears would have carried more weight. 

Still, Penny’s career day gave the Seahawks and their fans another glimpse of what he is capable of. And if he can keep this up for the rest of the year — which happens to be a contract year — a nice payday awaits. 

Would the Seahawks be the ones to give it to him? Who knows? They’d want him on their team — but so would many others.